It is a fundamental principle of this nation that everyone be considered equal under the law, and that that law must be secular in character. In Rhode Island, this principle is under attack.
Rhode Island is currently considering allowing same-sex couples the right to get a civil union (not even a marriage). The Corvese Amendment would exempt religious organizations from the law, allowing them to discriminate against people who have had civil unions:
“…no religious or denominational organization…shall be required…To treat as valid any civil union; if such providing, solemnizing, certifying, or treating as valid would cause such organizations or individuals to violate their sincerely held religious beliefs.”
This shocking attempt to undermine the principle of equality under the law is merely an extension of religious exemptions which have already been passed in New York. But these go much further – while the “exemptions” in New York simply reaffirm the right of religious organizations not to perform marriage ceremonies if they do not wish to (a right they already enjoyed under the Constitution), the exemptions in Rhode Island would enable religious organizations to legally discriminate against those who have expressed their love through a civil union. As ThinkProgress puts it, if this amendment were to pass, “religiously affiliated schools, hospitals, and businesses could completely ignore any civil union and deny couples the rights those unions are meant to accord.”
This outrage is even more obscene given Rhode Island’s long history of promoting freedom: Rhode Island was the first of the thirteen original colonies to declare independence from British rule, and was the first state to enact a law against slavery. Rhode Island welcomed the first synagogue in the US, and elected the first delegates to the Continental Congress (as well as coming up with the idea). Providence Plantation, one of the founding colonies of Rhode Island, was begun by Roger Williams, an early proponent of religious freedom and the separation of church and state – secularism is built into the very bones of this beautiful state! This proud history of supporting democracy, freedom and equality must not now be tarnished by the actions of a few short-sighted legislators seeking to enshrine inequality in law.
This is a full-frontal attack on the rule of law and on the traditional American values of fairness and equality. The Corvese Amendment must be defeated, for the sake of the most exalted principles of this nation.