Why should the citizens of Rhode Island take advice on democracy and equality from a man who works for an organization modeled on medieval concepts of governance with little respect for the value of women? Of course I’m talking about Bishop Thomas Tobin and his latest statement on marriage equality:
Governor Chafee’s threat to veto a proposed referendum on same-sex marriage in Rhode Island is arbitrary and undemocratic.
Tobin made this statement in response to Governor Chafee’s suggestion yesterday that he would veto a General Assembly bill that sought to place the issue of marriage equality to a popular vote.
Looking back through the history of the United States, one is at a loss to find an instance of major civil rights reform that passed by popular vote, and the Bishop of course knows this. The Fourteenth, Fifteenth and Nineteenth Amendments to the Constitution, the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 were all legislative solutions to inequality. It is questionable as to whether or not any of these important protections for human rights would have passed if put to popular vote.
The Bishop knows this. Until this last election cycle, no state had ever passed marriage equality through the process of the popular vote. Anti-marriage equality forces used to tout this fact to argue that they had the majority of Americans on their side, (until Maine, Maryland, Washington and Minnesota in 2012.). Tobin is gambling that the Providence Diocese and the well funded NOM RI (National Organization for Marriage Rhode Island) will be able to tip the scales in a local election, further delaying full rights to LGBT persons.
Money would pour into the election from the Knights of Columbus and other LGBT hate groups with the intent of warping the vote, and even if marriage equality were to pass electorally, up to a year will have passed before such marriages will be allowed. Then of course there will be legislative options for Tobin to explore, as NOM RI fronts for the church and persuades some judge to delay certifying the results or delay the inevitable via some other legalistic sleight of hand.
Tobin is less interested in democracy than he is in abusing the system as a means to an end.
And why should Tobin be so interested in democracy? When has the Catholic Church ever embraced democracy in formulating its beliefs or actions? Arranged in the manner of a medieval government, the Pope acts as King, the Cardinals and Bishops as Dukes and Counts, and the parish priests act as noblemen and knights of the realm. No one elects their local priest, he is merely foisted upon them by the ruling hierarchy. And the local priest is always a “he.” No women are allowed within the power structure of the Roman Catholic Church, equality be damned.
When Governor Chafee suggested that he would veto legislation to place marriage equality before the voters, he was standing up for democracy. He was telling the legislature to do the job the were elected to do, not punt the issue back to the voters in a cowardly attempt to avoid taking responsibility for their decisions. Many in the General Assembly, especially those of the Senate Judiciary committee, might feel torn between their duty to their church and their duty to the citizens of Rhode Island.
They should not be.
If a legislator finds that he cannot serve the state of Rhode Island because of some deeply held religious feelings of allegiance to Bishop Tobin, then that legislator should immediately resign. Last I checked, Tobin gets one vote, just like the rest of us, because he is one person, just like the rest of us. He does not get to puppet master key politicians to enforce his anti-American, anti-Human Rights agenda anymore.
Marriage Equality is an essential and simple issue of the Human Right to marry who we love. Those who stand against this can no longer claim the moral high ground.