By: Joe Siegel/TRT Reporter
The Rhode Island chapter of the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) is airing a television commercial in an effort to prevent a same-sex marriage bill from being passed by the state’s General Assembly.
Two bills have been introduced which would allow gay and lesbian couples to exchange marriage vows.
NOM’s 30-second television ad takes aim at Governor Lincoln Chafee (I) who urged legislators to pass a marriage equality bill soon. Former Governor Don Carcieri, whose two terms in office ended in January, was an outspoken opponent of same-sex marriage. Carcieri even endorsed the efforts of NOM to prevent gays and lesbians from getting married in the state.
“Lincoln Chafee got just 36% of the vote in the recent election, and fewer popular votes than the Cool Moose Party’s candidate for Lieutenant Governor,” said Christopher Plante, Executive Director of NOM-RI. “Our message is that getting 36 percent of the vote is no mandate to redefine the institution of marriage for all of Rhode Island society.”
“Eighty percent of Rhode Islanders want the chance to vote on marriage, just as voters in 31 other states have done,” the NOM ad states. It calls on Rhode Islanders to call Chafee’s office, and that of House Speaker Fox and Senate President Theresa Paiva-Weed to express their views.
The NOM-RI advertisement is running statewide on broadcast and cable stations. The group is spending in excess of $100,000 on the advertisement.
However, advocates for marriage equality remain skeptical about NOM’s efforts.
Kathy Kushnir, MERI’s Executive Director, said the NOM commercial ignores the main issue at stake: bringing equality to gay and lesbian couples.
Kushnir noted that NOM’s campaign to influence legislators to put the issue of same-sex marriage on a ballot is not working.
“The people of Rhode Island understand that what they have done over the last election cycle was to send equality supporters to the State House,” Kushnir said, adding members of the LGBT community and their allies were contacting their elected representatives about passing a same-sex marriage bill.
“No more waiting, no more delaying, no more denying civil rights for same-sex couples,” Kushnir added. “The legislature can right that wrong immediately and that’s what the people are asking them to do.”
MERI has no plans to run any advertisements on television, preferring to focus their efforts on lobbying legislators.
However, a stinging rebuttal of the NOM ad was produced by a pro-LGBT organization, Stop8.org. The video featuring Matt Baume can be seen on You Tube.
“Same-sex marriage enshrines a tragic situation into law,” Plante says in the video.
Some of the state’s religious leaders have expressed their scorn for Chafee’s support of same-sex marriage.
Bishop Thomas Tobin, the head of the Providence Archdiocese, criticized Chafee in a column titled “Has Our State Has Lost Its Soul?”
Tobin wrote: “We have a ton of problems in our state – a depressed economy, a fragile social service network, a distressed public education system, the demise of the family, a wave of urban crime and domestic violence, and what promises to be an intense and divisive debate created by the ill-advised desire to redefine marriage.”
A 2010 poll commissioned by MERI showed that 59 percent of Rhode Islanders support extending marriage rights to same-sex couples.