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Rhode Island governor vetoes burial rights for domestic partners

[JURIST] Rhode Island Governor Don Carcieri [official profile] vetoed legislation [text, PDF] on Tuesday that would have allowed domestic partners, including those in same-sex relationships, to claim the body of their partner and to make funeral arrangements. Neither domestic partnerships or civil unions are recognized in Rhode Island, and the bill would have required that a same-sex partner produce documentation establishing the nature of the relationship, such as proof of a joint bank account, mortgage, or car registration, and that the relationship had lasted for a year or longer. In his letter to lawmakers [text, PDF] explaining the veto, 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. If the General Assembly believes it would like to address the issue of domestic partnership, it should place the issue on the ballot and let the people of State of Rhode Island decide.

The sponsors of the bill, Senator Rhonda Perry and Representative David Segal [official profiles] have promised to push for an override [AP report] of the veto in the state legislature, where Democrats hold enough seats to make that possible.

The veto of the burial rights bill comes amid a larger battle in Rhode Island over same-sex marriage, which, according to a Brown University poll [press release], has the approval of 60 percent of registered voters in the state. Rhode Island and Maine remain the only two states in New England that do not recognize same-sex marriage. Advocates for same-sex couples have been met with mixed results over the last few years. Legislation to legalize same-sex marriage was vetoed in Maine [JURIST report] last week, but similar legislation was successful in New Hampshire and Vermont [JURIST reports] earlier this year. Legislation to the same end was passed [JURIST report] by the New York State Assembly in May, but has since stalled in the state senate. In April, the Iowa Supreme Court overturned [JURIST report] that state's ban on same-sex marriage, following the supreme courts of Connecticut, California, and Massachusetts [JURIST reports]. Last November, California voters approved Proposition 8 [JURIST report], making California the first state to outlaw same-sex marriage after legalizing it.

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