Since gays and lesbians aren’t allowed to legally vow “’til death do us part” in Rhode Island, it’s only fitting that they not be allowed to take care of each other after death.
So says Rhode Island Gov. Donald Carcieri, who vetoed a bill that allowed domestic partners to make funeral arrangements for each other. A domestic partner, as defined by the bill, is a couple who have at least a one-year relationship and proof of financial “interdependence,” such as joint mortgages, checking accounts or credit cards.
This reminds me of a bit by lesbian stand-up comic Leslie Thompson. Upon being told by a telephone solicitor hawking burial plots that the offer is for married couples, Thompson responds, “First we can’t get married, and now we can’t get buried?”
Of course, it’s not that gay Rhode Islanders can’t get buried; it’s just that their partners can’t make that decision for them since they’re not, you know, real family.
“A one-year time period for any relationship is not a sufficient length of duration to establish a serious, lasting bond between two individuals to supplant the surviving individual over traditional family members relative to the sensitive personal traditions and issues regarding funeral arrangements, burial rights and disposal of human remains,” Carcieri, a longtime opponent of marriage equality, wrote in his veto letter. “Many casual relationships last longer than a year.”
True. And many one-man-one-woman marriages last less than a year. Yet they’re allowed to make decisions based on “sensitive personal traditions” and are entrusted with the “disposal of human remains,” which you apparently have to do yourself in Rhode Island.
No, it’s better to let blood relatives take care of everything, since all families are accepting of their gay or lesbian offspring and no one would dare go against his or her wishes while at the same time forbidding his or her partner from even coming to the funeral. That’d never happen in this day and age. Except when it does. So you’ll have to excuse homos for being a little sensitive about this issue.
A big part of Carcieri’s problem with the bill was the whole domestic-partner thing. Rhode Island has no DP law. So Carcieri found the DP provision to be “vague and ill-defined.”
Hey, you know what isn’t “vague and ill-defined?” Marriage. If gays could legally marry each other, there’d be no reason to assemble rights they should rightfully be afforded patchwork-quilt style. But that doesn’t look likely to happen in Carcieri’s Rhode Island.
“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,” Carcieri wrote.
I think what he meant was, “This bill represents a disturbing trend of treating gays like actual people with feelings.”
“If the General Assembly believes it would like to address the issue of domestic partnerships,” he continued, “it should place the issue on the ballot and let the people of the state of Rhode Island decide.”
Because if there’s one thing the majority should be allowed to vote on, it’s the funeral arrangements of the minority. Hey, if you don’t like it, don’t die! Or at least don’t die gay.
D’Anne Witkowski has been gay for pay since 2003. She’s a freelance writer and poet (believe it!). When she’s not taking on the creeps of the world, she reviews rock ’n’ roll shows in Detroit with her twin sister and teaches writing at the University of Michigan.