As state legislative sessions wind down before their 2010 sessions begin, Rhode Island and New Jersey are proving to be fertile ground for LGBT issues.
1. In Rhode Island, the legislature has overwhelmingly overridden Governor Carcieri's veto of a bill that would allow the surviving partner of a gay couple to be able to have burial rights after death. Governor Carcieri (left) vetoed this bill, saying, "This bill represents a disturbing trend over the past few years of the incremental erosion of the principles surrounding traditional marriage." According to The Providence Journal, the legislation grew from the testimony of Mark S. Goldberg, who shared his story of the "months-long battle last fall to persuade state authorities to release to him for cremation the body of his partner of 17 years." The National Organization for Marriage, headed by Maggie Gallagher, not only supported this veto but tried to pressure the legislature against overriding it.
The legislature didn't listen, and overrode the veto by a vote that crossed party lines. The House vote was 67 to 3 and the Senate vote was 29 to 3. That's a 96% override vote in the House and a 91% override vote in the Senate. Pretty clear response to a pretty hateful veto. Why in the world would anyone want to deny burial rights to a partner?
2. In New Jersey it now looks like a same-sex marriage vote will take place in the legislature on Thursday. Most observers had predicted the bill would die, and with it the hopes of same-sex marriage for the next four years, as John Corzine, a marriage equality supporter, leaves office in January and a marriage equality opponent takes over the governorship. Most people -- including supporters of same-sex marriage -- expect the bill to fail. Some of us may ask the question, "Why bring it up, then? Why open the door for another defeat?" But other supporters of same-sex marriage view a vote as helpful in that it will clarify which legislators to support in the 2010 elections. They cite the New York vote as instructive in the planning of which candidates to support in next fall's elections.