Catholic Church opposes civil unions, after Fox backs them, MERI to hold rally

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By: Joe Siegel/TRT Reporter
May 2, 2011
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence has come out in opposition to civil unions; just days after House Speaker Gordon Fox (D-Providence) announced his support for a civil union’s bill.

In an unsigned editorial in this week’s Rhode Island Catholic, the Diocese said:

“We hope that those members of the Rhode Island General Assembly who have consistently supported traditional marriage will stay steadfast in their opposition to the legal recognition of same-sex relationships as either marriage or civil unions.

“Government sanctioned civil unions cannot be supported by those who truly understand the unique nature and status afforded a man and a woman in marriage. We call upon the members of the Rhode Island House and Senate to cast aside such compromises and rather work to strengthen marriage in our state by passing a Defense of Marriage Bill that clearly defines marriage as between one man and one woman.

“Only then will the attempts by radical activists to redefine marriage and undermine family life in Rhode Island finally be stopped. Civil Unions are not the answer,” the editorial says.

Fox, who is openly gay, had pledged to push for a vote on a marriage equality bill during the current legislation. Hearings were held on the issue by the House Judiciary Committee in February and the Senate Judiciary Committee in March.

A same-sex marriage bill has been introduced every year since 1997 but has never made it out of committee for a floor vote. Marriage equality advocates had hoped this year would be different.

Reverend Gene Dyszlewski, Pastor of Riverside Congregational Church in East Providence and the head of the Religious Coalition for Marriage Equality – an organization composed of more than 100 leaders from the faith community, disputes the assertions made by the Catholic Church.

“(The Catholic Church’s) cramped, simplistic view of sexuality ignores the complexity of the human personality and is contrary to any reasonable concept of human nature,” Dyszlewski said via e-mail.

“Marriage is an intense privileged relationship between two people that encourages their growth and well-being,” Dyszlewski continued. “Marriage allows not only the joy of being accepted and cared for by another, but also the joy of being the source of acceptance and care in another.  Marriage is about soul building.  It is not a license for baby making.”

In a letter to his colleagues, Fox acknowledged the uphill road a gay marriage bill would have in the General Assembly.

“Based on your input, along with the fact that it is now clear to me that there is no realistic chance for passage of the bill in the Senate, I will recommend that the House not move forward with a vote on the marriage equality bill during this legislative session,” Fox wrote. “I will instead support full passage of a civil unions’ bill that grants important and long overdue legal rights to same-sex couples in Rhode Island.”

Fox’s announcement came two days after the resignation of Marriage Equality Rhode Island Executive Director Kathy Kushnir. No reason was given for Kushnir’s departure.

MERI will hold a rally at 4:30 on Tuesday at the State House. The event is designed for supporters to voice their objections to civil unions and to continue the fight for full marriage rights.

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