Catholic Rhode Island Becomes 10th State with Marriage Equality

Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chaffee signs the marriage equality bill into law.

Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chaffee signs the marriage equality bill into law.

This past week, Rhode Island became the 10th state (plus the District of Columbia) to legalize marriage equality for lesbian and gay couples.  The Rhode Island victory is a particularly sweet victory for Catholics since the state is one of the densest Catholic states in the union.

ABCNews reports:

“Ten U.S. states — including a long uninterrupted swath from New York to Maine — now allow gay and lesbian couples to marry now that gay marriage legislation has been signed into law in heavily Catholic Rhode Island.

“Gays, lesbians, their friends and families erupted into cheers Thursday following a final 56-15 vote in the Rhode Island House, and then again an hour later when Gov. Lincoln Chafee signed the bill into law on the Statehouse steps.”

The Huffington Post noted that the victory came “after a 16-year effort to extend marriage rights in this heavily Roman Catholic state.”

The news of Rhode Island’s marriage equality victory did not sit well with the Diocese of Providence’s Bishop Thomas Tobin, who was a chief opponent of the bill.  WPRI reports that he gave a warning to the state’s Catholics about attending marriages of lesbian and gay couples:

“Bishop of Providence Thomas Tobin said Thursday he was ‘profoundly disappointed’ that Rhode Island leaders have decided to allow same-sex marriage and warned Catholics to think hard before going to the weddings of local gays and lesbians.

” ‘Catholics should examine their consciences very carefully before deciding whether or not to endorse same-sex relationships or attend same-sex ceremonies, realizing that to do so might harm their relationship with God and cause significant scandal to others.’ “

You can read Tobin’s full response here.

Tobin’s advice is not well-thought out.  Many factors come into play when someone decides whether or not to attend any event.  Most important for the majority of people is the relationship one has with those who are celebrating.  The true scandal would be if people were to ignore their personal relationships when making decisions about what to do.

Catholics, in vast numbers, support marriage equality, as the Rhode Island victory illustrates.  I doubt that any Catholics who support LGBT equality will follow Tobin’s suggestion.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry


4 replies
  1. tomfluce
    tomfluce says:

    We know that Catholics have strongly endorsed civil unions. But they do this for the most part when they go to the polls and cast their vote in secret. What if all LGBT and allies spoke out in their churches–at the regular venues like religious ed meetings, at council meetings, after Mass?

    And didn’t worry about retaliations? And if they had a plan, to get their conscientious position together in a unified manner intentionally to reach each part of a diocese, and then each part of the church in the US?

    The notion of the Galileo Reconciliation Commission-GRC–is getting reasonable, conscientious people (eventually from both sides of an argument) to agree to take the violent talk and actions out of churches and devote their efforts to finding ways to dissent in a loving manner. If our opponents–not those who are unloving and probably who like Brother Ratizinger this New Year repeated his harmful moral judgment on us–put love first and doctrinal convictions second, wouldn’t that be better than the old church ways, excommunicating (sending people to hell), firing ministers/priests? Do we need any more Galileos, religious wars, schisms?

    Tom Luce [email protected]

  2. Claressa
    Claressa says:

    Proud of you,Rhode Island!!! Now for the remaining 40 states still in the 15th century. Come join us in equality.


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] play a major positive role in the legalization of marriage equality for lesbian and gay couples in Rhode Island, New Jersey, Delaware, Minnesota, Illinois, Hawaii, France, and Great Britain. […]

  2. […] on LGBT issues further demonstrate that Catholic leaders remain unsettled months after Rhode Island passed marriage equality. This situation has left many clergy in disagreement about the best response to new realities, […]

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