Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Rhode Island Passes Civil Unions

Only five days after New York state passed laws allowing gay marriage, the Rhode Island legislature has passed a civil unions law and the governor, Lincoln Chafee (a Republican turned "Independent") says that he will sign it. While civil unions usually confer more limited rights than full marriage, it seems a step in the right direction, and perhaps the beginning of a trend inspired by actions in New York. It is notable that even some opponents of gay marriage found that they could accept these more limited civil unions. Remember that evolution, in biology, and public opinion, operates on a slower scale than we might often like.

As usual, religious extremists are apoplectic, claiming that such bills are unpopular with voters and suggesting that such laws could be repealed. It does remain to be seen whether these laws will help or hurt democrats. It could very well give republicans another rallying cry to help turn out votes. Some have suggested that the Republican legislature in New York may have allowed the bill to pass on purpose in order to have an issue to run against, given that they cannot run on their unpopular economic policies of fiscal austerity in a time of severe economic hardship.

We also should not have any illusions about gay marriage spreading to all states. There is no chance that Bible Belt red states in the deep south will allow it. These are states that still make homosexual activity a crime.

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