News (USA)

Rhode Island lawmakers override veto, allow funeral planning rights for gays

On their first day back at work, Rhode Island lawmakers Tuesday wasted no time in overriding 15 vetos by Republican Governor Don Carcieri, including the bill to grant funeral decision-making rights to same-sex couples.

The House, and then the Senate, voted to override Carcieri’s veto of a bill grating domestic partners the right to claim the bodies of, and make funeral arrangements for, their loved ones.

The House vote was 67 to 3 and the Senate vote was 29 to 3.

In his veto message on November 10, Carcieri said: “This bill represents a disturbing trend over the past few years of the incremental erosion of the principles surrounding traditional marriage, which is not the preferred way to approach this issue.”

At the time, Sen. Rhoda Perry and Rep. David Segal, the bill sponsors, promised they would seek to override the veto.

The funeral arrangements bill covers domestic partners regardless of their sexual orientation, but was passed after moving testimony of Mark Goldberg, who said it took well over a month for him to arrange the cremation of his longtime partner Ron Hanby because various state agencies refused to recognize their relationship and release Hanby’s body to him.

“Not being able to claim his body was certainly something that was beyond belief, was beyond human compassion from anyone,” Goldberg said. “There was just no compassion whatsoever from anyone in the state.”

Following the veto override Tuesday, Goldberg said he was “just thankful the [lawmakers] recognized the importance of this bill.”

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