R.I. Civil Unions Law Elicits Lukewarm Response from Same-Sex Couples
LGBT Rhode Islanders have given a lukewarm reception to their state’s recently signed civil unions law.
Clerks in the state’s two largest cities-Providence and Warwick-did not report any requests for applications on July 5, the first day same-sex couples were able to obtain one.
Rhode Island is the fifth state, along with New Jersey, Illinois, Delaware and Hawaii, to recognize civil unions.
The state’s first civil union ceremony was held in Burrillville on Saturday, July 9.
Aaron Coutu, 35, and Ray Daignault, III, 44, applied for a civil union license just days after Gov. Lincoln Chafee signed the bill into law.
Coutu and Daignault have lived together in Burrillville, a rural community 20 minutes north of Providence, with no problems. Both are involved in local civic and charitable events-Coutu works as a librarian at the Greenville Public Library and chairs the board at the Jesse Smith Library, where the ceremony was held.
Chafee, a supporter of full marriage equality for same-sex couples, expressed mixed feelings on the legislation. "I am signing this bill because I believe that same-sex couples should have the same legal rights, benefits, protections and responsibilities as heterosexual couples," he wrote. "Although this measure is a step forward, it fails to fully achieve those goals in its present form."
In his statement, the governor said he had urged the General Assembly to adopt legislation that would allow same-sex couples to marry, which he described as a civil right.
"I believe that it is unfair to treat the relationships of same-sex couples differently than the relationships of heterosexual couples under the law and that such differential treatment serves no rational government purpose," he wrote.
"Everyone Should Have Civil Unions-Straight or Gay"
Stephen Hartley and his partner Brian Deslauriers, together for six years, are planning to get a civil union. Hartley believes civil unions are just as valid as marriage.
"I think everyone should have civil unions-straight or gay and if they chose to have a religious ceremony, then in the eyes of the church they would be married," said Hartley. "I just want the same rights as anyone in Rhode Island who at this time are married. I could care less what they call it as long as I have the same rights."