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Rhode Island lawmakers override veto to allow burial rights for domestic partners

[JURIST] Rhode Island lawmakers on Tuesday voted to allow domestic partners [press release], including those in same-sex relationships, to claim the body of their partner and to make funeral arrangements, overriding a veto [JURIST report] by Governor Don Carcieri [official profile]. The legislation [text, PDF] passed by a vote of 67-3 in the House and 31-3 in the Senate [official websites], receiving support from both Democrats and Republicans. Neither domestic partnerships or civil unions are recognized in Rhode Island, and the bill will require 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. The legislation will also apply to unmarried heterosexual couples. Carcieri, a Republican, had argued that the "bill represents a disturbing trend over the past few years of the incremental erosion of the principles surrounding traditional marriage."

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 after legislation to legalize same-sex marriage was vetoed by voters in Maine [JURIST report] in November. Same-sex marriage is currently legal in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, and New Hampshire, and is set to become legal in Washington DC [JURIST reports], pending Congressional inaction.

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