Bishop: some benefits for gay couples are acceptable

The Bishop of Providence Rhode Island granted an interview to a local media outlet, and offered some thoughts about homosexual rights:

In an exclusive interview, Roman Catholic Bishop Thomas Tobin said the Church is not opposed to granting some benefits and rights to gay couples—as long as the term marriage is not used.

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.”

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  • Chris Sullivan

    Thank you Bp Tobin for a very sensible approach.

    God Bless

  • Joe Snavely

    I find it sad that it is an innovation to most and downright blasphemy to some in the church that a Bishop might say that “People deserve human rights whether or not they’re gay.”

    My response to this is, with all do respect, “duh.”

  • naturgesetz

    Joe Snavely — agreed. There are all too many, both inside and outside the Church who do not realize that “people deserve human rights whether or not they’re gay,” or who do not realize that the Church says so. So it’s good that the bishop points it out.

  • http://passionatelylovingtheworld.wordpress.com/ G. Alex Garver

    As an attorney, I agree that this is the sensible approach that upholds both position for Social Justice and the dignity of all individuals and the Church’s teaching on marriage and family. However, I feel that neither side of the debate will see this as satisfactory. We seem to have lost the ability to debate and compromise.

  • Linus

    I disagree profoundly. To grant any special legal benefits to ” domestic partners ” of the same sex does severe harm to the status and standing to couples of opposite sex living in a traditional union – religious or secular – and should be opposed by the Church at every step.

  • pagansister

    It’s a start. However, I sincerely hope it progresses to marriage being allowed in RI—as a citizen of the state of RI, it is past time for homosexual couples to be allowed to marry AND have rights.

  • momor

    I see the bill as largely unecessary since most of the “rights” are things that can be dealt with in a will and through power of attorney. The main exception would be employer health benefits. (SS survivor benefits are a whole different kettle of fish.) If the bill does get passed, I hope it covers all kinds of relationships where people have made the decision to live together and support each other.

    IMO what gay couples really want are not the rights but the social legitimacy they believe that marriage gives their relationship.

  • brother jeff

    The springtime of Vatican II continues. They already have civil rights, what some want are new rights akin to marriage.

  • kel

    How would you get “sex” out of this partnership, ie if its a grandfather and a grandson living together and they wanting to have “benefits”, this would open up doors to incest, pedofilia and who knows what partnership arrangement. Like a prior poster said, most of these issues can be obtained with other legal docs such as wills, etc. as for insurance, my insurance is great and I would love for everyone, including husband, kids, cousin, mother, father, aunts, uncles, best friends, to be allowed in my insurance, just so they can enjoy the great freebies my company provides which they cover about 95% of my health costs, but we have to draw the line somewhere. My company allows insurance for domestic partners as well, and I have a friend who gives insurance to a roomate, who I know is not a domestic partner b/c friend is hetero and has a boyfriend too, but there’s that room for abuse, also, how about people that believe in poligamy, all their wives/husbands should be covered too.

  • Paul UK

    We have had ‘civil partnerships’ in the UK since December 2005. Civil partners are entitled to the same property rights as married opposite-sex couples, the same exemption as married couples on inheritance tax, social security and pension benefits, and also the ability to get parental responsibility for a partner’s children, as well as responsibility for reasonable maintenance of one’s partner and their children, tenancy rights, full life insurance recognition, next-of-kin rights in hospitals, and others. Many of these rights are not accorded to same-sex couples living together without a civil partnership agreement.
    There is no evidence whatsoever that civil partnerships erode the fabric of marriage in the UK, this is being ‘successfully’ done by the heterosexual population who fail to see any virtue in marriage be it civil or religious.
    The Church requires us to show “respect, compassion, and sensitivity” towards homosexuals. “Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, para 2358).

  • pagansister

    Paul UK, Many states in this country (USA) could learn a lot from what you have done in the UK. Some states have already learned, but other states haven’t.


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