PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Gov. Lincoln Chafee signed into law on Saturday a bill allowing gay couples in Rhode Island to enter into civil unions, acknowledging it was an imperfect piece of legislation but calling it a “step forward” toward full marriage rights in the state.
Chafee said the bill fails to give homosexual couples the full marriage rights given to heterosexual couples and that he was concerned that an exemption given to religious groups was too broad. But he added that the legislation “brings tangible rights and benefits to thousands of Rhode Islanders.”
The General Assembly voted Wednesday to approve civil unions, and Chafee had indicated he would sign the bill.
Gay rights groups urged Chafee to veto the measure, saying it continued discrimination against gays. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence denounced the Assembly vote, calling the concept of civil unions “a mockery of the institution of marriage as designed by God” that “undermines the well-being of our families and poses a threat to religious liberty.”
NY motorcyclist in helmet protest hits head, dies
ONONDAGA, N.Y. — A motorcyclist participating in a protest ride against helmet laws went over his handlebars, hit his head on the pavement and was killed, police said Sunday.
The motorcyclist, 55-year-old Philip A. Contos, likely would have survived the accident if he’d been wearing a helmet, state troopers said.
The accident happened Saturday afternoon in Onondaga, a town in central New York near Syracuse.
Contos was driving a 1983 Harley-Davidson on a helmet protest ride organized by the Onondaga chapter of American Bikers Aimed Towards Education, or ABATE, troopers said. The organization states that it encourages the voluntary use of helmets but opposes mandatory helmet laws.
Contos, of Parish, hit his brakes, and his motorcycle fishtailed and went out of control, flipping him over the handlebars, police said. He was pronounced dead at a hospital.
New York is one of 20 states that require all motorcycle riders to wear helmets. Lobbying by motorcyclist groups has led some states to repeal helmet laws.
A helmet that meets federal standards reduces the wearer’s chances of being killed in an accident by more than 40 percent, said safety consultant Jim Hedlund, of the Governors Highway Safety Association.
Buried bombs take increasingly deadly toll on Afghan civilians
KABUL — Buried bombs killed 30 Afghans in a 48-hour span, in the latest grim illustration of the dangers faced by civilians as the season’s fighting heats up.
The latest casualties came Saturday in Zabol province, in southern Afghanistan, when a van filled with travelers struck a roadside bomb. Thirteen people were killed, including four children and four women, said a spokesman for the provincial government.
On Friday evening, two bombs planted close together killed four people in the rural Maruf district of volatile Kandahar province. One was apparently triggered by a donkey, and two people riding or leading the animal died in the explosion. Two people who rushed to the rescue were killed by the second bomb, police said.
On Thursday night in Nimruz province, a roadside bomb killed 13 people and injured about three dozen.
Insurgents routinely seed roads and pathways with improvised bombs, their favored weapon against Western troops. But most often those killed and injured by the hidden bombs are civilians. The United Nations said May was the deadliest month for noncombatants since it began keeping track five years ago, with 368 civilians killed in war-related violence.
On Sunday, three U.S. senators visiting Kabul said they are worried that President Barack Obama’s planned withdrawal of 33,000 American troops by September 2012 could undermine Afghan morale, embolden the insurgency and hamper efforts to defeat Taliban fighters.
Sens. John McCain, Joe Lieberman and Lindsay Graham said they are heartened by the progress of Afghan security forces, but worry that Obama’s withdrawal plan could deplete American military strength before dealing a decisive blow to the Taliban, especially in eastern Afghanistan.