In an op-ed in The New York Times titled “Why I Am Signing Marriage Equality Into Law,” Chafee goes beyond the usual “I believe in equality” argument to say that it’s an economic imperative to support marriage.
“Rhode Island was badly battered by the recession of 2008, but we are moving in the right direction,” Chafee argues. “Jobs are the only way forward — we need to keep the ones we have, and we need to create new ones. There are good signs — our unemployment rate has just undergone the largest yearly drop since 1985 — but one needless obstacle to our recovery remains. Rhode Island is part of a highly regional economy, with the other New England states and New York in constant competition with us for innovative companies, and particularly for the young, open-minded individuals who are close to the heartbeat of the new digital economy. In our small cluster of states, it is relatively easy for a company or a person to cross a border seeking a more favorable climate. And in recent years Rhode Island has been an outlier among our surrounding states: we are the only one prohibiting same-sex couples from marrying.”
Chafee has been in front on marriage equality for a while. When he was in the U.S. Senate, he was one of a handful of senators who supported equality, and the lone Republican. First, he lost his seat because Republicans are almost extinct in the Northeast, and then he left the party because he was too moderate. He’s an independent now.
Chafee is making a more politically palatable argument because, after all, governors are all about jobs. Given the U.S. lingering high unemployment rate, might we suggest that it’s time to go nationwide with marriage equality? After all, what’s good for Rhode Island, should be good for the rest of the country.