The Providence Journal Sets Precedent
The [Tiverton] School Committee still has to work out some legal details, but it decided to extend the health-care benefits of retired teacher Cheryl McCullough to her spouse, Joyce Boivin. The couple, who live in Swansea, were married last June in Massachusetts.
There may be future cases that attempt to push this sort of decision further and further, but if McCullough’s contract extends the benefit to a spouse recognized in her state of residence, then the legal implications of extending the benefit to a spouse recognized in her state of residence are very limited. Things would be different if Rhode Island law explicitly forbid recognition of same-sex marriages in any form, but it does not.
Of course, as I’ve previously said, it increasingly seems that judges can find precedent anywhere and anyhow they wish, so even there, a school board’s decisions either way are of little consequence. What’s interesting, though, is the Providence Journal news department’s analysis. (Perhaps “speculation” would be a better word, because staff writer Michael McKinney offers no substantiation. Indeed, his independent quotations minimize the significance of the case.) Here’s the headline and first paragraph of the piece:
Towns providing benefits to married same-sex couples
A decision by the Tiverton School Committee this week may signal that Rhode Island is beginning to recognize the legitimacy of same-sex marriages among Massachusetts couples by affording them the same benefits as heterosexual couples.
There are two ways to interpret the spin: either the Projo is merely attempting to exaggerate controversy to sell newspapers, or it is attempting to frame the public’s understanding of the issue and the precedent with an eye toward future same-sex marriage cases. Neither option instills much confidence in the objectivity of its reportage on this matter.