Gays and lesbians in the US state of Rhode Island have been saddled with a civil unions scheme that widens religious exemptions against them and which GLBT rights groups called on politicians not to pass.

The bill was offered as a compromise after the Rhode Island Democrats’ openly gay house speaker Gordon Fox said he did not have enough votes to pass a same-sex marriage bill.

The state’s independent Governor supports same-sex marriage, however, the  Democrats’ state Senate president M. Teresa Paiva Weed is a same-sex marriage opponent.

Religious exemptions in the civil unions law are so wide they would allow hospitals owned by religious groups to ignore the civil unions of patients and staff members — denying them a say in medical decisions, and leave when an employee’s same-sex partner was sick.

Church groups opposed the civil unions bill even with the exemptions.

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