As the good people in Maine and California know all too well, legalizing same-sex marriage doesn't easily become a done deal. New England is the home to most of the states that have legalized same-sex marriage. Massachusetts was first in the nation to legalize same-sex marriage in 2004. Most recently in New England, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine passed same-sex laws in 2009; Connecticut passed theirs in 2008. In Maine their same-sex marriage law passed on May 6, 2009 and it was to go into effect on September 1, 2009; but, it was overturned by popular vote 64 days later on November 3, 2009. In Rhode Island lawmakers have tried to pass same-sex legislation annually since 1997. The uphill battle in the Ocean State has been due in large part to Republican (and virulently homophobic and transphobic) governor Donald Carcieri. That battle has taken a significant change, and while it ain't over until the lady sings, Rhode Island appears poised to become the next state to legalize marriage equality.
Rhode Island's outgoing governor Carcieri, a powerful little darling of the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) and the equally homophobic Massachusetts Family Institute, has been a strong opponent of marriage equality, stating, for example, in October 2009: "It is a not civil right. I get aggravated when it is portrayed that way. Marriage is a license by the state. It is about a state’s responsibility, which is the reason why states don’t allow a lot of types of marriages." Carcieri also said homosexuality is "destructive to individuals, families and society." Although not the only anti-marriage equality voice in Rhode Island politics, Carierci's has been loud and consistent; and, he would have vetoed any same-sex marriage bill put before him by the Rhode Island General Assembly. In fact, Carcieri is a member of NOM.
No doubt NOM had a major freak-out when Rhode Island voters selected Lincoln Chafee as their next governor. Chafee has openly said he is not oppposed to same-sex marriage. Since his election earlier this month, Chafee has continued to voice support for it. Here are two money quotes from the Providence Journal dated November 24, 2010, that will sure to make any marriage-equality supporter smile (bracketed and boldface type mine):
[Director of the Rhode Island chapter of the NOM, Christopher] Plante said he dropped by Chafee’s transition office unannounced about two weeks ago, and came away from his conversation with aide Michael Trainor believing that the governor-elect was open to sitting down and talking with people on all sides of the gay-marriage debate.Governor-elect Chafee knows what happened with Maine's marriage equality law and he clearly does not want that travesty repeated in Rhode Island. Also, Michael Trainor denied that he said governor-elect Chafee would sit down with NOM.
Hence his “surprise” when he received a letter from Trainor, reaffirming the position that Chafee stated repeatedly through his campaign for governor over the last year. It said: “The governor elect feels that the issue should be addressed as soon as possible by the General Assembly, and does not believe that the question should be decided by a ballot referendum.”
In his Nov. 16 letter to Plante, Trainor also reiterated Chafee’s belief that: “Marriage equality is a basic right that should be extended to all Rhode Islanders — a question not only of fairness and justice, but of economic development as well.”
Money quote #2 (boldface type mine):
...the political calculus has changed with a governor-elect and a House speaker who support same-sex marriage, and Senate President M. Teresa Paiva Weed, a longtime opponent, indicating she would not block a Senate vote if a Senate committee approved a same-sex marriage bill.And so I ask you