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Rhode Island LGBT Community Honors Gov. Chafee

by Joe Siegel
Contributor
Tuesday Nov 19, 2013
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Governor Lincoln Chafee
Governor Lincoln Chafee  (Source:Courtesy of RI Pride)

Governor Lincoln Chafee (D) was honored by Rhode Island’s LGBT community Thursday at the Rhode Island Pride Honors with the Pyramid of Pride Award. The event was held at the Hope Artiste Village Function Space in Pawtucket. Last May, Chafee signed the marriage equality bill into law, making Rhode Island the 10th state to allow same-sex couples to wed.

In a New York Times op-ed published earlier this year, Chafee wrote of being one of only six Republican US senators to vote against the amendment to ban same-sex marriage in 2004, and notes how, of the six that opposed the amendment, only two were reelected to Congress. Chafee left the Republican party and ran for Governor as an Independent but has changed his political affiliation to Democrat earlier this year.

"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," Chafee wrote. "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," he continued. "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."

Belle Pellegrino, a veteran of the first Rhode Island Pride celebration in 1976, said Chafee "has been exceptional" and a "welcome change" -- Chafee’s predecessor, Don Carcieri, was a vocal opponent of same-sex marriage and had allied with the anti-gay National Organization for Marriage.

State Senator Donna Nesselbush (D-Pawtucket), the lead sponsor of the marriage equality bill in the Senate, called Chafee’s embrace of same-sex marriage "affirming".

"[Chafee’s support] helped me with my lobbying efforts," Nesselbush told EDGE.

Nesselbush, a lesbian, was pleased to know Chafee was on "the right side of the issue."

Providence Mayor Angel Taveras (D), who is one of the candidates for governor in 2014, called Chafee "a principled man who made history here in Rhode Island." Chafee has announced he will not be seeking re-election.

Taveras praised Chafee’s "vision and leadership" on the issue of marriage equality.

RI Pride member Maureen DeLoreto was honored with the Spirit of Pride Award and RI Pride chairman Rodney Davis noted DeLoreto’s fundraising work and contributions to the organization.

DeLoreto, who is transgendered, "shared her story" with the LGBT community, Davis added.

"It’s not just an organization, it’s a family," DeLoreto said of RI Pride.

The 2013 RI Pride Parade winners included Dark Lady/Alley Cat for Most Original, Boston Ironsides Rugby Team for Best Walking Unit, Unicorn, Inc. for Best Illuminated, and Marriage Equality Rhode Island for Best Use of Theme.

The Committee Award was presented to Youth Pride, Inc and the President’s Award was given to Bank of America. RI Pride sponsors were also recognized. They included AIDS Care Ocean State, Stable, Whole Foods, Los Andes, and Hasbro.

A 2013 Pride retrospective video was shown to conclude the evening.

For more information about RI Pride, go to www.prideri.com.

Joe Siegel has written for a number of other GLBT publications, including In newsweekly and Options.

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