NOM: The Fight Will Go On in R.I., Elsewhere
The head of the National Organization for Marriage’s Rhode Island chapter vows his group will continue to fight against nuptials for same-sex couples in spite of the passage of civil unions in the Ocean State and marriage equality in New York.
Christopher Plante, executive director of NOM’s Rhode Island chapter, stressed to EDGE that his organization continues to support an amendment to the state Constitution that would define marriage as between a man and a woman. Marriage equality supporters vow to stand their ground against NOM.
"It comes as no surprise that NOM would back any effort to discriminate against gay and lesbian Rhode Islanders in loving, committed relationships," said Martha Holt, spokesperson for Marriage Equality Rhode Island. "As for seeking a Constitutional amendment to myopically define the institution of marriage, NOM has been mounting that effort for years, and we have beaten them back every single time. MERI remains committed to passing marriage equality legislation and we will vigorously oppose and defeat any effort to further discriminate against gay and lesbian Rhode Islanders."
The passage of a civil union bill certainly did not generate a lot of enthusiasm from marriage equality advocates, who had pressured Gov. Lincoln Chafee to veto the bill due to religious exemptions that permit Catholic-affiliated hospitals from having to recognize a couple in a civil union.
MERI had urged legislators in the General Assembly to pass a bill that would grant full marriage rights to gays and lesbians.
Plante believes, however, that marriage equality activists have shown what he believes to be their true intentions by trying to kill the civil unions bill, which grants same-sex couples all the rights and privileges of marriage. Plante said he feels what they really want is not benefits, but the right to use the word marriage to define same-sex relationships.
"It’s a lie," he said. "This isn’t about rights and protections. This is about taking the word ’marriage’ and redefining it."
Plante said he was "pleased" by the Human Rights Campaign, Freedom to Marry and other groups’ attempt to kill the civil unions bill after the General Assembly passed it "I don’t think it’s a compromise," he said of the measure. "(Gay marriage activists) show what they really want is to destroy the institution of marriage."
Plante acknowledged that NOM was at a disadvantage at the beginning of the legislative session, with a newly elected pro-LGBT governor and polls showing the majority of Rhode Islanders backing marriage equality.
Over the past few months, MERI suffered turmoil after former executive director Kathy Kushnir and several board members resigned. As EDGE reported in May, several sources came forward to allege MERI and state Democratic officials met to delay a vote on the marriage equality bill until after the 2012 elections.
LGBT activists also lashed out at gay House Speaker Gordon Fox (D-Providence) for his endorsement of the civil unions bill-instead of the marriage equality measure. Fox said he believed the state Senate would have not passed the marriage equality bill.
Senate President Teresa Paiva-Weed (D-Newport) backed civil unions-and not marriage-for same-sex couples.
"(Fox) did not have the votes in the House," said Plante.
Plante reiterated he believes that the majority of Rhode Islanders believe marriage should remain as a union between a man and a woman. He said NOM will spend a lot of time and money promoting their message ahead of next year’s elections.
"This battle is going to come back even stronger," added Plante.