R.I. bill would give gays funeral rights

June 3, 2009 at 3:48 PM
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PROVIDENCE, R.I., June 3 (UPI) -- The Rhode Island state Senate has passed legislation allowing "domestic partners" the right to claim each others bodies and arrange funerals.

The bill would apply to both homosexual and heterosexual couples, defining domestic partners as those in an "intimate, committed and exclusive relationship," The Providence Journal reported Wednesday.

Gay marriage is now legal in four of the six New England states with New Hampshire and Rhode Island the holdouts. A number of other bills have been introduced in Rhode Island to either ban gay marriage or extend partnership or marriage rights to homosexuals, but the all except the funeral bill remain stalled in committee.

During legislative hearings on the bill earlier this year, Mark Goldberg described spending weeks trying to arrange the release of his longtime partner's body for cremation. He said state officials refused because he and Ron Hanby were neither related nor legally married until a state Department of Human Services employee went to bat for him.

"I felt as if I was treated not as a second-class citizen, but as a non-citizen," Goldberg said.

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