As expected, the Providence Journal Sunday edition marks the fourth out of the last five days that the gay-funeral/governor-veto story has landed on the front page, this time with the personal story, by Randal Edgar, of Mark Goldberg, one of the advocates for the legislation.
Goldberg’s experience with the current law was terrible — so much so that it’s difficult to believe that a more efficient government wouldn’t have been able to resolve the matter much more quickly (and humanely) under existing policies. That said, I disagree with the governor; this “piecemeal” approach is precisely appropriate — certainly more so than legislation granting “all but the name” marriage-like partnerships for homosexuals. The reason is that, as we enact laws recognizing relationships, we should ask ourselves the questions of “what” and “why.”
Take, for example, this explanation for Goldberg’s motivation, in today’s paper:
GOLDBERG SAYS the delays were all the more frustrating because he was grieving.
“Here’s somebody just lying on a slab, and you’re thinking, what is the dignity in this,” he said. “I still loved the man and I wanted to do what was right for him, what was honorable, and respectful.”
Are married people, homosexual partners, and people with nearby family members the only ones with a claim to dignity in death? Compassion provides no explanation for the expansive definition of “domestic partner” provided in the vetoed legislation. Why must one be “financially interdependent” in order to have a sincere desire to execute the last wishes of somebody for whom one cared? Why, for that matter, does the legislation contain language stating that such partners could not be “related by blood to a degree which would prohibit marriage in the state of Rhode Island? Under the funeral law, all such relations have rights to claim bodily remains.
It’s difficult not to suspect an ulterior motive in injecting the definition at some highly emotional point in the law. Personally, I say we do away with that necessity: Put the legislation’s description into the law somewhere more central, defining the “domestic partner” relationship for all purposes, and then on an issue-by-issue basis, decide whether a particular right or privilege ought to apply… or ought to be expanded more broadly.