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R.I. group sees flaw in civil union bill

Associated Press / June 3, 2011

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PROVIDENCE — Rhode Island’s leading gay marriage advocacy group says it opposes legislation to create civil unions because of a provision allowing religious groups to ignore the new law.

Marriage Equality Rhode Island said it is urging lawmakers to revise the legislation.

The provision would exempt religious organizations from having to perform civil union ceremonies or recognize the relationships. But Martha Holt, chairwoman of the board of Marriage Equality Rhode Island, said the exemption would also allow religious hospitals, cemeteries, and schools to ignore rights given to gay couples in a civil union.

The proposal would grant couples in a civil union the rights given to married couples under state law, including hospital visitation and the right to make medical decisions.

The House passed the bill last month. A Senate committee was scheduled to review the measure yesterday.