|Lincoln Chafee is a former Republican United States Senator (from|
1999 to 2007) and the current Independent Governor of Rhode Island
ON Thursday, the Rhode Island House of Representatives is expected to approve legislation to extend the right to marry to all Rhode Islanders, regardless of sexual orientation. I plan to sign the Marriage Equality Act into law immediately after the vote, on the steps of the Rhode Island State House, overlooking downtown Providence. This is the same spot where, in my 2011 inaugural address, I called for Rhode Island to embrace marriage equality.Today Rhode Island will become the tenth state in the United States in which same-sex couples have all the rights, responsibilities and benefits of marriage that a state can bestow (including the title). That fact means that the entire region of New England (Vermont, Maine, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island) will have marriage equality.
I have been heartened in recent months to see members of my old party coming around on marriage equality, including the entire Republican caucus in the Rhode Island Senate — the first time a caucus of either party has been unanimous in its support. That reflects sound political judgment, and some values that are at least as Republican as they are Democratic, including a belief in marriage as an institution and a desire to keep government out of our personal lives.The push for equality will continue to grow stronger 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. As this shift continues, marriage equality will inevitably become law in more and more states. The states that cling to their old prohibitions will then be viewed as the outliers. Like Rhode Island in recent years, they will be seen as islands of old thinking.[...]
So tomorrow, 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. I hope that leaders in capitals across the country — including Washington — will soon realize that marriage equality is an issue where doing the right thing and the smart thing are one and the same.