Marriage Equality Discusson at Bell St. Chapel

Tonight was the first meeting of the discussion group centered around E.J. Graff’s book “What is Marriage For?” at the Bell Street Chapel here in Providence. I keep meaning to get over there a little more often. Yes I know, I’m an atheist. But the part missing is the social and the UUA seem to understand that it isn’t all about the god thing.

There were eight people in attendance including the President of the Bell Street Chapel Don Laliberte, his partner Richard Corso, Board Secretary of Bell Street Chapel Carol Crowley, a gentleman by the name of Brian, Kathy Kushnir from Marriage Equality Rhode Island, and the couple I’ve written about previously who happen to live about three doors down from me, that would be Angela and Jack.

We discussed the two central themes of the book, namely:

What is marriage


Why do people marry

We split off into groups of two and hashed out all the various answers. In why people marry the group I was part of with Don came up with the usual suspects plus the drunken/UI reasons a la certain demi-celebrities who shall remain nameless. But it was a good workup to next weeks discussion which will explore topics in the book more thoroughly.

As you’d expect the answers are the same as what we’ve heard over and over again from both sides of the marriage equality battle. Things such as familial, money, et al.

I did get to relay the comments of the NOM spectator from the Senate hearings on marriage equality to the couple. They’re feisty, and I love that aspect of people.

I’m also told that there will at least be yet another hearing on the issue this time on the house side. But it’s very unlikely we’ll see any activity this late in the legislative season. That’s the leaderships way of letting us know there will be no marriage equality again this year. Fourteen years down, and only three to go before we achieve equality in Rhode Island.

At the end I did sum up that in RI it will be a judicial challenge that grants our rights. It will come in one of two ways. The first will be a gay couple attempting to obtain a marriage license and some organization backing them up to file suit. Then there will be the one I think is more likely, that a couple will marry in IA, MA, CT, VT, or possible NH or ME then move to RI. They’ll file to have their marriage fully recognized here.

The reason I don’t see a direct challenge as happening is because both MERI and GLAD seem to believe that the judiciary is packed with right wing ideologues that our Repugnant Governor Don Carcieri put in place.

Let me explain why I see a problem with that thinking. The governor reaches out the Judicial Nominating Committee. The Committee then submits the names to the governor who then selects his ideal candidate. It then goes to the Senate for confirmation.

The Senate is a very big stumbling block for ideologues. So the reality is you get the candidate most palatable to just about everyone out the end of the process.

And as Justice Hurst stated, bring it back under a constitutional challenge and the courts will have no choice but to grant the divorce in Ormiston v. Chambers, but it also opens the door to full marriage equality.

Do I really want to wait three years for a new governor that supports our rights to be elected? Do I really think that the leadership in the house and senate will change that dramatically in that same time?

To answer the first, no I do not want to wait three years for a political solution. It seems to me all the effort is being put into that basket. It is funny, someone made the suggestion we send the Graff book to all legislators, I suggested we send a few copies to the RC diocese too.

As to the leadership, how is that with the Majority Whip being gay in addition to another high ranking member being gay too, we can’t get this bill to a full house vote? Certainly this year is notable for the 31 co-sponsors of Rep. Handy’s H5744 Marriage Equality bill. But the leadership in the form of Speaker Murphy and President Paiva-Weed is sorely lacking.

Part of the problem is we don’t have the political pull we need to move this bill. There are no huge campaign donations, no regular lobbyists.

I see us in an untenable situation. We cannot get redress from the legislature, the executive or the judiciary although I think the last one is more likely. So what are we left with other than outright revolt?

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