The Republican governor of Rhode Island, Don Carcieri, has vetoed a bill which would allow people in gay relationships to make funeral arrangements for their partners.

It would have given the right to people who had met criteria for being in an exclusive, committed relationship.

Although it applied to both gay and straight people, it was heralded by gay groups as an important piece of legislation.

In his veto message, Carcieri said: “This bill represents a disturbing trend over the past few years of the incremental erosion of the principles surrounding traditional marriage, which is not the preferred way to approach this issue.

“If the General Assembly believes it would like to address the issue of domestic partnerships, it should place the issue on the ballot and let the people of the state of Rhode Island decide.”

He also said the minimum one-year for the length of the relationship was not long enough and questioned how this would be confirmed.

State Representative David Segal said he was “genuinely upset” over the veto.

Segal added that Carcieri had an “insistent, persistent need to assert himself by undermining the lives of gay people who love each other and want to be in committed relationships”.

Rhode Island attorney general and Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Patrick Lynch also criticised Carcieri, calling him “cruel and heartless”.