The Bishop of Providence Rhode Island granted an interview to a local media outlet, and offered some thoughts about homosexual rights:
His statement—which was couched in caveats—nonetheless indicates a flexibility in the Church’s position that has previously been overlooked in the polarizing debate over gay marriage in Rhode Island.
“The legislation we would support is what is often called ‘reciprocal benefits,’” Tobin told GoLocalProv. “It does not use marriage as a reference point. It would grant some legal benefits [and] some legal rights to two people who have some kind of established relationship without any particular reference to marriage. So it could be someone and their grandfather. Could be two cousins. Could be two elderly sisters.”
Such a bill was filed in the House in early March. The bill, sponsored by Rep Peter Petrarca, D- Lincoln, would grant about half a dozen rights and benefits to any two unmarried people, regardless of sexual orientation. If passed, it would allow one partner to make medical decisions for another, have a say over the burial and disposition of their remains, and the right to inherit property if the other partner dies.
Tobin declined to elaborate on exactly which legal benefits and rights he thought unmarried couples should have—saying that’s a question for legal experts. “People deserve human rights whether or not they’re gay,” Tobin said. “Now the reciprocal benefits [bill] recognizes some rights and some privileges irrespective of their orientation and that’s the key I think.”
Tobin said he would not go as far as supporting civil unions, saying the church is as steadfastly opposed to civil unions as it is to gay marriage.
“We would oppose what is commonly called civil unions because it’s really just another name for what would be same-sex marriage,” Tobin said. “We’ve found invariably whenever civil unions are introduced in a state that is quickly followed by full-fledged gay marriage.”