A large and growing number of groups interested in civil rights and the democratic process started a campaign yesterday at the Old state House on Benefit St in Providence to defeat a Constitutional Convention. Speaking at the event and providing reasons to oppose a Constitutional Convention were representatives from six of the thirty groups that have so far signed on.
Citizens for Responsible Government spokesman Pablo Rodriguez, MD and President of Latino Public Radio said that a Con-Con is a threat to civil rights, “Across the country, issues like affirmative action, reproductive rights, gay rights, worker rights, senior citizen rights and immigrant rights have become fodder for expensive statewide campaigns mounted by well-funded, out-of-state special interests.”
“The 1986 Constitutional Convention quickly spiraled from ‘good government’ to abortion politics,” said Paula Hodges, Director of Planned Parenthood Southern New England. “Women should be very concerned.”
George Nee, of the RI AFL-CIO says that “A Constitutional Convention, for all intents and purposes, puts our Constitution up for sale.” Outside money may well flood our state in response to ballot measures, and opposing this will be expensive. “Our money can be better spent elsewhere.”
Speaking for the RI ACLU, Hillary Davis also outlined the dangers of a Con-Con, as did Michael S. Van Leesten, who has fought for civil rights in various capacities for over forty years.
The last speaker was Jennifer Stevens of Rhode Island Pride. “One year after winning equal marriage rights through our state legislature we remember our long struggle and recognize that the same groups and individuals who opposed gay rights, and funded our opposition, will wish to play a role in a constitutional convention,” she said, “Every Rhode Islander should be concerned about attempts… to roll back or stifle LGBTQ and minority rights.”
Full disclosure, the Humanists of Rhode Island, a group of which I am President, is a proud member of this new coalition. Also in the coalition are RI Alliance for Retired Americans, AFSCME, Central Falls Teachers Union, RI Commission for Human Rights, RI Commission on Occupational Safety and Health, RI Economic Progress Institute, Rhode Island Federation of Teachers and Health Professionals, Fuerza Laboral, IATSE Local 23, Jobs With Justice, National Association of Letter Carriers, National Council of Jewish Women RI, Providence Central Labor Council, Providence NAACP, RI National Association of Social Workers, RI NOW, RI Progressive Democrats, Secular Coalition for Rhode Island, UAW Local 7770, USW Local 16031, UWUA Local 310, UFCW Local 328, UNITE HERE, United Nurses and Allied Professionals, Warwick Teachers Union Local 915 and Women’s Health and Education Fund.