Mixed Reaction on Chafee’s Same-Sex Marriage Executive Order
Tuesday, May 15, 2012
As he signed an executive order recognizing same-sex marriages from out-of-state, Governor Chafee on Monday again called on lawmakers to support full marriage equality in Rhode Island and said he would sign a gay marriage bill into law immediately if it were to pass in both General Assembly chambers.
Chafee became the first Governor in the countrty to sign an executive order recognizing our-of-state gay marriages. His order was met with loud applause from hundreds of supporters inside the State House and earned praise from national progressive groups throughout the day.
"Our members are thrilled that Gov. Chafee is stepping forward to help loving, committed same-sex couples gain the recognition and rights they deserve from Rhode Island,” said Adam Bink, director of online programs for the Courage Campaign. “His support and the unanimous support of Rhode Island's congressional delegation for the Respect for Marriage Act speeds up the day when over 1,100 federal rights and benefits currently denied to legally married same-sex couples are granted alongside what they are getting today from Rhode Island."
Chafee said the executive order reaffirms former Attorney General Patrick Lynch’s 2007 opinion stating that recognizing the valid marriages of same-sex couples does not violate Rhode Island public policy. The Governor said the state was “way overdue” for recognizing out-of-state gay marriages.
Joining Chafee for his announcement were Lt. Governor Elizabeth Roberts and several members of the legislature. House Speaker Gordon Fox and Senate President M. Teresa Paiva Weed, who have not indicated whether same-sex marriage will come to a vote this year, were not in attendance. Fox issued a statement of support Monday afternoon.
“This is another step that gets us further down the path toward same-sex marriage,” Fox said. “I personally appreciate Governor Chafee’s continued support of this issue and I look forward to reviewing the details of his executive order.”
Congressman David Cicilline also extended his support to Chafee.
“As a result of Governor Chafee’s leadership, our state has come another step closer to acknowledging that two adults in a loving and committed relationship should have their commitment to one another recognized as marriage,” Chafee said. “I applaud Governor Chafee for his courageous and bold action.”
Still, some lawmakers said they were unhappy with the Governor’s decision to sign an executive order and not receive approval from the General Assembly. State Rep. Doreen Costa said her frustration was not about whether or not she supports gay marriage, but rather that Chafee bypassed the legislature with his order.
The Governor was criticized last September when he signed an executive order establishing a healthcare exchange as well.
“Again the Governor decides to take matters into his own hands,” Costa said. “I think he forgets that there are 75 elected officials in the [House]. I am going to take a guess and say that when the Governor does not like what we do, then he can just do what he wants. I find this so disrespectful to the General Assembly and so should the other representatives.”
But Chafee’s supporters, which included several top union officials, lawmakers and dozens of activists, called it a great day for equality in Rhode Island.
“We applaud Gov. Chafee for his bold leadership and commitment to the rights of all Rhode Islanders,” Ocean State Action executive director Kate Brock said. “Thousands of same-sex couples who have been married in other states can now rely on their home state of Rhode Island to recognize the legal rights and protections that only marriage can afford."