Executive order cleared parenting rights for same-sex couples
Lincoln Chafee has consistently been a supporter of rights for same-sex couples, and his campaign platform made it clear that he didn't want them treated differently than heterosexual couples when it came to being eligible for adoption and foster care.
Christine Hunsinger, the governor's spokeswoman, said Chafee fulfilled that promise in May when he issued an executive order saying that all state departments, agencies and officers "shall recognize the lawful marriages of same-sex couples as valid for any purpose arising within the execution of its duties."
Chafee also ordered state agencies to review their policies and regulations to make sure that any reference to "husband," "wife" or "spouse" be interpreted to include same-sex couples married in other states.
Hunsinger said the initial review has been completed but issues are still arising. "As people interact with government, there are new issues we may not have been aware of," she said. She offered two examples:
In one case, a same-sex couple married in Massachusetts gave birth to a child in Rhode Island. But the birth certificate issued by the Rhode Island Department of Health listed only one parent. That system has been modified and, in this case, the birth certificate was amended to recognize both parents.
A second instance focused on the marital deduction on the state inheritance tax. Under a Sept. 21 decision by the Rhode Island Division of Taxation, when one partner in a same-sex marriage dies, "the spouse will inherit in the same way a two-gender couple would," and the property the survivor receives is eligible for a marital deduction, said Hunsinger.
The executive order doesn't cover everything because the governor has no jurisdiction over the court system, the General Assembly or, obviously, federal law.
For example, the IRS still prohibits same-sex couples from filing joint returns -- and claiming children as dependents the way traditional couples do -- because those couples are not regarded as married under federal law. Even if same-sex marriage is made legal in Rhode Island -- an effort Chafee has vigorously supported -- that wouldn"t change Rhode Island tax returns because income calculations are based on the federal return.
"I think the governor has done, through his executive order and through his support of the marriage equality legislation, essentially everything that is in his power to do," said Marriage Equality Rhode Island Executive Director Ray Sullivan.
Chafee only pledged to support same-sex parenting rights. He has certainly done that. We rate this pledge as a Promise Kept.
ChafeeForGovernor.com, "LGBTQ issues," accessed Jan. 7, 2013
Interview, Christine Hunsinger, spokeswoman, Gov. Lincoln Chafee, Jan. 8, 2013
Tax.RI.gov, "Request for Ruling Regarding the Application of the Marital Deduction for the Estate of B as Provided by R.I.G.L. § 42-35-8," State of Rhode Island, Division of Taxation Declaratory Ruling Request No. 2012-02, Sept. 21, 2012, accessed Jan. 8, 2013
Interview, Ray Sullivan, executive director, Marriage Equality Rhode Island, Jan. 7-8, 2013