Rhode Island legislators voted Tuesday to override republican Gov. Carcieri's veto of a bill that would allow unmarried couples, whether gay or straight, the right to claim the body of a deceased partner and make funeral arrangements. The governor had vetoed the bill on the grounds that it would erode the institution of marriage.
The RI house voted 67 - 3, with the senate voting 29 - 3 in a move that recognizes the inherent dignity of all its citizens to make final arrangements for their loved ones. Rhode Island is currently the only New England state that does not legally recognize same-sex relationships.
According to projo.com, "the legislation was an outgrowth of the personal tale that Mark S. Goldberg told lawmakers about his months-long battle last fall to persuade state authorities to release to him for cremation the body of his partner of 17 years, Ron Hanby."
The new rights would apply to "a person who, prior to the decedent's death, was in an exclusive, intimate and committed relationship with the decedent" for at least a year. Carcieri took issue with the definition on the grounds that Rhode Island does not recognize domestic partnerships or same-sex marriages. The governor said that if the legislature wanted to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples, the issue should to be put on the ballot and voted on by the public.
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