Friday, February 23, 2007

Rhode Island Attorney General Patrick Lynch says research persuaded him to decide that Rhode Island can recognize same-sex “marriages” from Massachusetts — not his sister’s recent same-sex union in Massachusetts.

“No disrespect to my sister, who I love very much, but it has zero impact on it,” Mr. Lynch told the Providence (R.I.) Journal last week, saying his nonbinding legal opinion made on Wednesday was well researched and based on a 1904 Rhode Island State Supreme Court ruling on interstate marriage.

On Feb. 15, Mr. Lynch attended the “marriage” ceremony in Attleboro, Mass., of his older sister, Pawtucket, R.I., City Solicitor Margaret Lynch, and her longtime partner, Patricia Gadaleta. The women have twin daughters.

On Wednesday, Mr. Lynch issued a six-page opinion to the Rhode Island Board of Governors for Higher Education that said their homosexual employees who have “married” in Massachusetts should be treated as spouses.

“Rhode Island has not enacted any legislation prohibiting same-sex marriages or stating a public policy against same-sex marriage, even though they have been validly performed in neighboring Massachusetts for approximately three years,” Mr. Lynch wrote.

Mr. Lynch later said his opinion was “essentially guidance” and nonbinding. However, Steven Maurano, a spokesman for the Board of Governors, which oversees higher education in Rhode Island, said the board intends to follow Mr. Lynch’s advice.

Bishop Thomas Tobin of the Catholic Diocese of Providence criticized Mr. Lynch’s opinion as being overly influenced by a “relentless gay agenda.”

Raymond T. McKay, president of the Rhode Island Republican Assembly, said Mr. Lynch should have deferred to lawmakers or federal law, specifically, the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, which says states do not have to recognize same-sex unions from other states. “This is a great miscarriage of justice and law by the individual who is charged with the responsibility of enforcing Rhode Island law and protecting our state constitution,” Mr. McKay said.

Meanwhile, in other states:

• Wyoming House Speaker Roy Cohee, a Republican, on Thursday cast the committee vote that killed a constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman. The measure had passed the Senate last month.

• Illinois state Rep. Greg Harris, a Democrat who is openly homosexual, introduced a bill on Thursday to legalize marriage between “two persons,” rather than a man and a woman, in that state.

• In Maryland, hearings are scheduled for early March on constitutional marriage amendments offered in the Senate and House. Both bills define marriage as the union of one man and one woman but do not outlaw civil unions. The House bill also bars public schools from teaching about same-sex relationships.

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