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Topics In the News
Thank You, Governor Chafee
Posted by: Claude J. Summers on 05/02/13
Last updated on: 05/03/13
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Lincoln Chafee.

In a thoughtful op-ed in the New York Times on May 2, 2013, Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee explains his eagerness to sign marriage equality legislation at the earliest possible moment. A long-time ally of the glbtq community, Chafee argues that "marriage equality is an issue where doing the right thing and the smart thing are one and the same."

The Rhode Island House of Representatives, which passed an earlier version of the marriage equality bill by a lop-sided margin, is expected to approve the slightly revised version passed by the Senate on May 2. In his op-ed, Governor Chafee announced that immediately following the vote he will hold a signing ceremony on the steps of the Rhode Island State House where, in his 2011 inaugural address, he called for marriage equality.

Governor Chafee recites his long history of support for marriage equality. In 2004 and 2006, as a Republican United States Senator, he not only voted against the Federal Marriage Amendment that would have placed a ban against same-sex marriage in the United States Constitution, but he also took a positive position in favor of same-sex marriage when even most of his colleagues joining him in opposition to the ban did so based on states rights rather than endorsing marriage equality.

Chafee exults in the fact that what was once a lonely position is now a popular one, at least in the Northeast. "A historic realignment is happening all around us, as Americans from all walks of life realize that this is the right thing to do. It is occurring both inside and outside of politics, through conversations at the office and over kitchen tables, and at different speeds in different parts of the country. But once the people have spoken, politics should do its part to make the change efficient and constructive."

Chafee goes on to make the point that in addition to the moral imperative that all citizens be extended equal rights under the law, marriage equality is also important for economic reasons.

"Rhode Island is part of a highly regional economy, with the other New England states and New York in constant competition with us for innovative companies, and particularly for the young, open-minded individuals who are close to the heartbeat of the new digital economy. In our small cluster of states, it is relatively easy for a company or a person to cross a border seeking a more favorable climate. And in recent years Rhode Island has been an outlier among our surrounding states: we are the only one prohibiting same-sex couples from marrying."

He cites the studies of Richard Florida that have found evidence of a strong correlation between tolerance and prosperity, especially in the high-tech sectors of the economy.

"With a high concentration of outstanding colleges and universities, Rhode Island certainly has the talent. The technology is there as well, with our state's broadband speed and coverage ranked among the nation's best. The Beacon Hill Institute's most recent State Competitiveness Report also placed Rhode Island fifth among all states in the technology category. Now," Chafee writes, "we are poised to adopt the third and final T: tolerance."

Chafee expresses confidence that the push for equal rights will ultimately prevail "in statehouses, courthouses and polling places in every state in America. This is, by and large, a generational issue, not a geographic one. Even in the reddest states, the rising generations are far more tolerant than their parents and grandparents."

He concludes by saying that "when I sign the Marriage Equality Act into law, I will be thinking of the Rhode Islanders who have fought for decades simply to be able to marry the person they love. I will be thinking of how Rhode Island is upholding its legacy as a place founded on the principles of tolerance and diversity. But I will also be thinking, as all governors must, about the economy. With marriage equality becoming law tomorrow night in Rhode Island, we are sending a clear message that we are open for business, and that all are welcome."

Thank you, Governor Chafee, for your long record of support for equal rights in Rhode Island and in the nation.

In the video below, Governor Chafee speaks with Thomas Roberts about his support of marriage equality.

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