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RI Legislature Passes Law Allowing Domestic Partners to Make Funeral Arrangements – Is This Progress?

| Jun 3, 2009 | Legal News

The Rhode Island State Senate unanimously approved a bill granting “domestic partners” the right to claim the bodies of, and make funeral arrangements for their loved ones. The bill defines “domestic partner” as someone who had been in “an exclusive, intimate and committed relationship” with the deceased and had cohabited for at least a year before the death.

The law rises from a tragic story of a man who desperately tried to obtain the body of his deceased lover in order to cremate him according to his wishes. The story becomes secondary to a much larger picture here in Rhode Island. Rhode Island is the only State in New England that fails to recognize any legal relationship between homosexual couples. Our Court and legislature have previously refused to expand the rights of homosexuals in this State, yet today, the legislature agrees to let a domestic partner claim a body and make funeral arrangements?

I find this decision curious, to put it mildly. While it can be argued that any progress is beneficial progress, I can’t escape the irony that our State refuses to recognize any legal relationship for same sex couples during their life and yet acknowledges the validity and strength of same sex relationships in death.

I encourage any comments as I would like to open this question up for debate – Is this law progress for Rhode Island or a slap in the face?