‘‘I was told I couldn’t be in the room with her,’’ Valente said. ‘‘It was discouraging and hurtful. The children were upset. Why drive a wedge into a family like that?’’
Valente and Bond hope Rhode Island joins the rest of New England this year in allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry. But they are concerned that the treatment they received may still be allowed if lawmakers insert a broad exemption allowing religious organizations like churches, hospitals, and schools — or private businesses — to ignore the law and decide for themselves whether to extend benefits and rights to married gay couples.
The same objection has been raised by the Roman Catholic Church and several religious leaders who say the issue comes down to religious liberty. They argue that religious schools and charitable organizations like the Knights of Columbus should not be forced to change employee benefit policies or rent an event hall to a same-sex couple for a wedding reception.
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