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Katie Mulvaney
By Katie Mulvaney January 8, 2015

Protecting rights of gays, transgendered, bisexual was hallmark of Chafee’s term

Lincoln Chafee made several pledges to the gay community during his run for governor in 2010. He vowed to champion marriage equality, secure parenting rights for same sex couples, and put in place policies free of discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. These themes became a hallmark of his administration.

Throughout Chafee's tenure, we've examined various campaign pledges he made. We found in previous items that he kept his promises relating to gay marriage, gender identity and hate crimes to name a few.

But a broad promise relating to protecting the people from discrimination remained unrated on our Linc-O-Meter. That is whether Chafee fulfilled his campaign vow that he "supports hate crimes legislation in Rhode Island [which has already been achieved federally], non-discrimination policies and laws, repealing Don't Ask Don't Tell, passage of marriage equality, freedom of gender expression, protecting youth from bullying and harassment, and same-sex parenting rights."

In previous items, we found that Chafee kept his word about protecting gay, bisexual and transgender youths in school from cyber bullying by signing into law "The Safe Schools Act".

He followed through on his promise to broaden hate crimes legislation to apply to transgender people by signing into law legislation that expanded the definition of a hate crime to cover "gender identity or expression."

We also concluded that he kept his vow to champion the legalization of same-sex marriage by signing into law legislation that made Rhode Island the 10th state to legalize gay marriage.

He  kept his word that he would support the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, a federal law that, for years, dictated that marriage could only be defined as the union of a man and woman. The U.S. Supreme Court in June 2013 struck down aspects of DOMA, in effect extending federal benefits and protections to same sex couples who choose to marry.

We found also that he upheld his pledge to ensure that same-sex couples maintain the same rights extended to heterosexual couples in adoption and foster care.

Chafee, too, issued an executive order giving same-sex couples married in other states many of the same rights as other married couples. Also during his administration, state Department of Health regulations governing vital records were revised to ease the process for transgender people to change their gender designation on their birth certificates.

He won praise from same-sex marriage and gay, lesbian and transgender rights advocates.

Raymond J.  Sullivan Jr., former director of Rhode Islanders United for Marriage, recalled Chafee personally thanking every speaker who testified before the legislature in support of marriage equality.

"I think it will be one of the signature issues that his administration is remembered for," Sullivan said of the marriage equality. He praised Chafee, too, as the first governor to sign an executive order requiring that same-sex marriages executed in states where it is legal be given the same status in Rhode Island as heterosexual marriages.

"There was this feeling, after 16 years of no progress, of there finally being some movement," Sullivan said of that May 14, 2012, order.

Given all that evidence, we find that Chafee upheld his campaign pledges involving gay, lesbian and transgender rights. Indeed, it was a signature of his administration.

We rule this a Promise Kept.

Our Sources

Chafee for Governor

E-mails, Faye Zuckerman, spokeswoman for Governor Chafee, Dec. 29, 2014-Jan. 5, 2015

Rhode Island General Laws, The Safe Schools Act, accessed Jan. 6, 2015

Rhode Island General Laws, Sec. 42-28-46, accessed Jan. 6, 2015

Rhode Island General Laws, Sec. 15-1-1, accessed Jan. 6, 2015

U.S. Supreme Court, United States v. Windsor, accessed Jan. 6, 2015

State Department of Health, regulations governing vital records, accessed Jan. 6, 2015

Interview, Raymond J.  Sullivan Jr., former director of Rhode Islanders United for Marriage, Jan. 6, 2015

Interview and e-mails, Carisa Cunningham, director of public affairs for Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, Jan. 6-7, 2015

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