2011 -- H 6103 SUBSTITUTE A AS AMENDED
A N A C T
RELATING TO DOMESTIC RELATIONS - CIVIL UNIONS
By: Representatives Petrarca, Fox, JP O`Neill,
Date Introduced: May 03, 2011
It is enacted by the General Assembly as follows:
SECTION 1. Title 15 of the General Laws entitled "DOMESTIC RELATIONS" is
hereby amended by adding thereto the following chapter:
15-3.1-1. Definitions. -- (1) "Certificate of civil union" means a document that certifies
that the persons named on the certificate have established a civil union in compliance with this
(2) "Civil union" means a legal union between two individuals of the same sex
established pursuant to this chapter.
(3) "Party to a civil union" means a person who has established a civil union pursuant to
15-3.1-2. Eligibility. -- Persons shall be eligible to enter into a civil union only if both
such persons are:
(1) At least eighteen (18) years of age;
(2) Of the same sex;
(3) Not a party to another civil union or a spouse in a marriage with any other person;
(4) Not in a family
relationship within the degrees stated in
section 15-1-1 or section 15-1-2; and
(5) Neither person is mentally incompetent at the time of the civil union.
15-3.1-3. License requirements. -- (a) Persons intending to form a civil union in this
state must first obtain a license from the town or city in which:
(1) One of the parties to the civil union resides; or
(2) In the case of both parties being nonresidents of this state the city or town in which
the proposed civil union is to be performed.
(b) Before any license shall be issued to any person who, having previously been married
or been a party in a civil union to someone other than their intended civil union partner, the
person shall present to the town or city clerk a certified copy of the decree granting the divorce or
dissolving the civil union.
(c) The license required in: (a) shall be valid for three (3) months after the date of issue,
and if unused at the expiration of the three (3) months, the party or parties having the possession
of the license shall immediately return it to the town or city clerk from whom it was obtained.
(d) License fee. For issuing the civil union license the town or city clerk shall collect a
fee of twenty-four dollars ($24.00). The city or town shall retain eight dollars ($8.00), and
transmit sixteen dollars ($16.00) to the general treasurer of
the State of
responsible for depositing eight dollars ($8.00) of the sixteen dollars ($16.00) received into the
family and children trust fund created by
shall keep an accurate account of all fees charged and received under this section and shall
transmit all sums due to the general treasurer at least monthly in the manner and with the forms
which the general treasurer shall prescribe.
(e) The several town and city clerks shall record, in separate books to be kept by them for
that purpose, the information furnished to them and subscribed to as provided in this section.
Further, town and city clerks shall treat the civil union certificate as a vital record pursuant to
15-3.1-4. Certification of civil unions. -- Officials empowered to certify persons in civil
(1) Every ordained clergy or elder in good standing, every justice of the supreme court,
superior court, family court, workers' compensation court, district court or traffic tribunal, the
clerk of the supreme court, every clerk or general chief clerk of a superior court, family court,
district court, or traffic tribunal, magistrates, special or general magistrates of the superior court,
family court, traffic tribunal or district court, administrative clerks of the district court,
administrators of the workers' compensation court, every former justice or judge and former
administrator of these courts and every former chief clerk of the district court, and every former
clerk or general chief clerk of a superior court, the secretary of the senate, elected clerks of the
general assembly, any former secretary of the senate or any former elected clerk of the general
assembly who retires after July 1, 2007, judges of the
III of the United States Constitution, bankruptcy judges appointed pursuant to Article I of the
United States Constitution, and United States magistrate judges appointed pursuant to federal law,
may certify a civil union in any city or town in this state; and every justice and every former
justice of the municipal courts of the cities and towns in this state and of the police court of the
union in any city or town in this state, and wardens of the
persons in civil unions in New Shoreham.
(2) Every certification of a civil union shall be held in the presence of at least two (2)
witnesses besides the person officiating the certification and no minister, justice or other
authorized person shall perform the civil union certification until the persons to be certified in a
civil union have presented him or her the license named in this section.
(3) Every minister, justice, or other authorized person who certifies any persons in a civil
union shall endorse the "License and Certificate of
persons and certify that the persons were certified in a civil union in accordance with the laws of
the State of
all the information on the "License and Certificate
ninety-six (96) hours following the date of the civil union certification with the clerk in the town
or city from which the license was issued.
(4) The town or city clerk to whom the civil union certificate is returned shall carefully
file and preserve the return.
(5) If any person has any lawful objection to the civil union of any two (2) persons, he or
she may state the objection in writing, under his or her hand, to the minister, justice or other
authorized person about to certify the civil union, at which time the minister, justice or other
authorized person shall proceed no further in the civil union until the lawful objection has been
(6) Every minister, justice, or other authorized person who certifies persons in a civil
union without first receiving the license required by this chapter containing the required
information, or whenever the certification of the civil union has been lawfully objected to and the
impediment is not removed, or when the person certifies parties in a civil union that he or she
knows to have a husband, wife, or other civil union partner shall be imprisoned not exceeding six
(6) months or fined not exceeding one thousand dollars ($1,000).
(7) No civil union certified before a person professing to have a license or professing to
be qualified to certify the civil union shall be deemed or adjudged to be void, nor shall the
validity of the civil union be in any way affected by want of jurisdiction or authority in the person
by noncompliance with any of the requirements of this chapter, if the civil union is in other
respects lawful and has been certified with a full belief on the part of the parties to the civil union,
or either of them, that they have lawfully certified in a civil union.
(8) Every person who certifies a civil union without being legally authorized to do so
shall be fined five hundred dollars ($500).
(9) If, as the result of a court decision, any civil union which has occurred in Rhode
Island is declared invalid, the court shall order the state registrar of vital records to mark “invalid”
the original civil union record on file at the division of vital records and to note the invalidity of
the civil union on all other files or references to the civil union.
(10) Whoever provides any false information as to the requirements under this chapter, or
whoever enters into a civil union without duly proceeding as is required by this chapter, shall be
fined not exceeding five hundred dollars ($500).
15-3.1-5. Conscience and religious organizations protected. – (a) Notwithstanding any
other provision of law to the contrary, no religious or denominational organization, no
organization operated for charitable or educational purpose which is supervised or controlled by
or in connection with a religious organization, and no individual employed by any of the
foregoing organizations, while acting in the scope of that employment, shall be required:
(1) To provide services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods, or privileges for a
purpose related to the solemnization, certification, or celebration of any civil union; or
(2) To solemnize or certify any civil union; or
(3) To treat as valid any civil union;
if such providing, solemnizing, certifying, or treating as valid would cause such
organizations or individuals to violate their sincerely held religious beliefs.
(b) No organization or individual as described in subsection (a) above who fails or
refuses to provide, solemnize, certify, or treat as valid, as described in subdivision (a)(1), (a)(2) or
(a)(3) above, persons in a civil union, shall be subject to a fine, penalty, or other cause of action
for such failure or refusal.
15-3.1-6. Benefits, protections, and responsibilities. -- A party to a civil union lawfully
entered into pursuant to this chapter shall have all the rights, benefits, protections, and
responsibilities under law, whether derived from statutes, administrative rules, court decisions,
the common law, or any other source of civil or criminal law as people joined together pursuant
to chapter 15-3.
15-3.1-7. References and inclusions. -- A party to a civil union shall be included in any
definition or use of any term that denotes the spousal relationship, whether or not gender specific,
as those or related terms designating that relationship are used throughout the laws of the State of
15-3.1-8. Reciprocity. -- A civil union or registered domestic partnership that extends
benefits and responsibilities without the status of marriage and is legally entered into in another
jurisdiction shall be recognized in
meets the eligibility requirements of this chapter.
Dissolution of civil unions. -- The family
court, as established by
general laws section 8-10-3, shall have jurisdiction over all proceedings regarding dissolution of
civil unions. In all relevant respects, the dissolution of civil unions shall follow the procedures
and be subject to the substantive rights and obligations outlined in chapter 15-5.
15-3.1-10. Requirement of department of health - Civil unions. -- (a) The department
of health, office of vital statistics shall draft and distribute applications for civil unions to every
town and city within the state.
15-3.1-11. Severability. -- If any part of this chapter or its application to any person or
circumstance is adjudged invalid, the adjudication or application shall not affect the validity of
this act as a whole or any other part.
SECTION 2. This act shall take effect on July 1, 2011.