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Governor would consider domestic partnerships

Days after drawing criticism for vetoing a bill that would allow same-sex couples to make funeral arrangements for their partners, Gov. Donald Carcieri '65 has announced his willingness to explore the creation of legally recognized domestic partnerships in Rhode Island.

But "nothing has been defined"  in terms of the rights that such an arrangement would afford, said Amy Kempe, the governor's press secretary. The governor's office is looking at domestic partnership models from states such as Washington and Hawaii, she said.

Carcieri is "very open to exploring and possibly supporting domestic partnerships ... so long as any legislation is not specific to one class of citizens," Kempe said.

"This would not be solely for same-sex couples," she added.

According to a Nov. 14 Providence Journal article, gay rights groups in the state have criticized the potential domestic partnership as not going far enough.

The governor's veto statement for the funeral arrangements legislation — which would have applied to same-sex relationships of at least one year in duration — gave three reasons for his rejection. Carcieri wrote that a one-year relationship might not be sufficiently committed, that it was difficult to ascertain the exact duration of a relationship and that the bill represented "a disturbing trend over the past few years of the incremental erosion of the principles surrounding traditional marriage."

Kempe said Rhode Island law already allows any adult to fill out a form giving an individual of his choice authority over his funeral arrangements. The veto message does not mention this preexisting law.

"I would have been hoping that (Carcieri) would have had the decency to pass this one," Aida Manduley '11, head chair of the Brown Queer Alliance — an umbrella organization of LGBTQ student groups — said of the bill.

Manduley said the governor's later announcement struck her as an attempt to "save face," and did not necessarily represent real gains for gay rights.

The veto rankled gay rights advocates and was satirized at length on the Colbert Report. Carcieri, an active member of the Catholic Church, announced his openness to domestic partnerships after meeting with Queer Action of Rhode Island, one of the groups critical of his veto.

But according to Kempe, the governor has always been open to the idea of domestic partnerships.

"Nobody's ever asked him," she said. "They've just made assumptions."

 But the governor's "actions have said way more than his words have," Manduley said. "Unless we see action, I feel they are empty words and empty promises."

The title "domestic partnership" was not necessarily a drawback in itself, Manduley said.

There is no need to "kill ourselves over semantics," she said. "I'd rather have the rights regardless of name."

But a domestic partnership system without full parity would be "better than nothing," Manduley said.


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