Rhode Island lawmakers approve gay funeral rights bill

Immediately following the holidays, Rhode Island lawmakers overrode Republican Governor Carcieri's vetoed bills, among them, granting funeral decision-making rights to same-sex couples.

The House vote was 67 to 3 and the Senate vote was 29 to 3.

The legislation was inspired by Mark S. Goldberg, a man who faced a month-long battle last fall to persuade state authorities to release the body of his partner of 17 years, Ron Hanby.

In his veto message, Carcieri said: "This bill represents a disturbing trend over the past few years of the incremental erosion of the principles surrounding traditional marriage, which is not the preferred way to approach this issue.

"If the General Assembly believes it would like to address the issue of domestic partnerships, it should place the issue on the ballot and let the people of the State of Rhode Island decide," he wrote.

Within the course of a few hours, both chambers overrode all of the bills vetoed by Carcieri that were on their agendas - 15 for the House, 12 for the Senate.

Gov. Carcieri angered gays last October when he said marriage was not a civil right. Earlier last year, he joined the cause of the vehemently anti-gay marriage political group The National Organization for Marriage. After his veto in November, he met with members of the gay community to discuss partnerships.

Rhode Island is the only New England state that does not recognize gay unions. Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire and Connecticut have legalized gay marriage. Maine offers a limited domestic partnership for gay couples.

Brandon Godfrey

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