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Monday, October 18, 2010

Chafee: "Let’s get marriage equality passed"

Rhode Island gubernatorial candidate Lincoln Chafee with campaign aide Kenny Alston, who introduced him at a meet-and-greet for LGBTs in Pawtucket on Saturday, Oct. 16By Peter Cassels-

 Rhode Island gubernatorial candidate Lincoln Chafee told LGBT supporters this past weekend he would work with legislative leaders to make marriage equality a reality in the Ocean State.

Chafee, a former Republican U.S. senator whom Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse ousted in 2006, left the GOP and announced his candidacy for governor as an independent last January.

"I’d like to work with the speaker of the House and the leader of the Senate," Chafee told about 20 attendees at a meet-and-greet session in Pawtucket on Saturday, Oct. 16. "Let’s get marriage equality passed. Let’s get that done quickly."

The candidate attended a similar event in Narragansett on Sunday, Oct. 17.

Activists have worked for more than a decade to persuade Rhode Island lawmakers to pass a bill that would allow gays and lesbians to marry. Momentum has been building in recent years, but legislation introduced thus far has never reached the floor of either chamber.

Republican Gov. Don Carcieri is adamantly against marriage equality and would have likely vetoed a bill if the General Assembly passed one. He’s limited to two terms and will leave office in January.

Six candidates are running for the State House corner office, but only four-Democrat Frank Caprio, Jr., Moderate Ken Block, Republican John Robitaille and Chafee-are considered serious contenders.

Chafee and Caprio lead the most recent polls. They are running neck-and-neck as the race enters the final stretch in the last two weeks before the Nov. 2 election.

All but Robitaille have pledged to sign a marriage equality bill. He has said he opposes nuptials for same-sex couples.

During his talk, Chafee contended Rhode Island founding father Roger Williams envisioned the state as a haven for everyone, including LGBTs.

"I’d like to resolve this once and for all," Chafee told EDGE in an interview during the Pawtucket event. "We’re a welcoming place. Let’s get marriage equality passed."

In a recent televised debate, he described himself as a fiscal conservative, but did not go on to say he’s not a social conservative and would, for example, sign a marriage bill.

"I think the question was about why I left the Republican Party," Chafee explained when EDGE asked him about the omission.

He listed five principles for which he stands: fiscal conservatism, protecting the environment, defending personal liberties, avoiding what he called "foreign entanglements-not getting into these quagmires overseas" and using government to help the less fortunate.

Chafee described his philosophy as "traditional conservatism", adding it is closer to "liberalism in some ways."

Long-time activist Ken Fish praised the former Republican.

"This is a man who really gets it," he said. "He’s not just about tolerance. He’s about fully embracing gay and lesbian individuals in every aspect of life, including in government. I really appreciate his straightforward positions that are unequivocal."


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