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Bishop Tobin Still Against Civil Unions

April 29, 2011

This isn’t exactly news, because Bishop Thomas Tobin, Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence, has long taken a stand against any form of marriage equality.

Now Tobin has reaffirmed his opposition to civil unions in an editorial in the current issue of the Rhode Island Catholic, the diocesan newspaper. The editorial, which is not signed, states: “Government sanctioned civil unions cannot be supported by those who truly understand the unique nature and status offered a man and a woman in marriage.’’

The piece goes on to urge Rhode Island lawmakers to reject the civil union compromise forged by House Speaker Gordon Fox, D-Providence and Senate President Tersea Paiva Weed, D-Newport.

“Far from settling the issue, the passage of civil union legislation only advances the drive to same-sex marriage by framing the perception of same-sex relationships as `separate but equal. Such a course of events have taken place in recent years in Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire and Connecticut with civil unions ultimately becoming the stepping stone to legal recognition of same-sex relationships as marriage.’’

Fox’s support for civil union legislation has opened him up to withering criticism from fellow gay rights activists who seek full marriage rights.  (Fox is openly gay and says he still supports marriage equality). But one element that has not received much consideration is that Fox is a wily political vote-counter and realized that the votes were not there for full marriage rights this year. That won’t always be the case; just about every local and national public opinion survey shows voters are much more open to marriage equality than even five years ago. The repeal of the military’s Don’t Ask Don’t Tell rules will likely give the marriage equality movement even more traction.

Full marriage equality won’t come this year in Rhode Island. But the bishop’s fears (which most Rhode Islanders don’t hold) are warranted, because a civil union measure surely does establish a foundation to move to full marriage equality, sooner rather than later.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. April 29, 2011 7:12 pm

    So much for compromising on Civil Rights.

  2. rhody permalink
    April 30, 2011 7:02 am

    SSM opponents just played Fox like Chopin. Does anyone really think those who opposed SSM are really going to support civil unions if the Church and NOM still oppose them? Even if pro-SSM legislators swallow their disappointment and back civil unions, I don’t think this compromise gained a single vote, and Fox is going to end up looking like a much bigger fool than he would’ve by losing an SSM floor vote.
    And is Paiva-Weed, who talked such a good game about civil unions, going to deliver when Tobin brings the heat on her?

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