Carcieri vetoes bill to expand R.I. hate crimes law

by Joe Siegel

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Tuesday June 29, 2010


Rhode Island Gov. Don Carcieri vetoed a bill on Wednesday, June 23, that would have expanded the state's definition of a hate crime.

House Bill 7044/Senate Bill 2055 proposed the addition of gender identity or expression to Rhode Island's hate crimes statute. Carcieri vetoed the measure because he said the law already addresses actions "motivated by racial, religious, sexual orientation, gender or disability prejudice."

House Speaker Gordon D. Fox issued a statement shortly after Carcieri vetoed the measure.

"I have just learned of the governor's vetoes, which were sent late last night, and have begun to review the veto messages," said Fox. "I made the House membership aware of the eight vetoes this morning. I look forward to discussing these bills further with House members and the Senate leadership. No decision has been made at this time about returning to address the vetoes."

Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders encouraged LGBT Rhode Islanders to urge their legislators to override Carcieri's veto.

"It's a simple bill but critical for protecting transgender citizens from violence and harassment - protection all Rhode Islanders deserve," said GLAD executive director Lee Swislow in a statement.

Other LGBT activists criticized the governor's veto.

"The governor of [RI] has once again shown his disdain for LGBT Rhode Islanders, especially his utter lack of caring about transgender people who face immense harassment and violence based on how they present their gender," said Susan Heroux of Queer Action. "One wonders what the governor would do if one of his grandchildren turns out to be gay or transgender. Would he continue to not care about us?"

The Family Research Council, however, praised Carcieri's actions.

"Given the challenges facing America, it's troubling that any legislature would invest time and taxpayer monies to consider such a superfluous agenda-driven maneuver, much less pass it through both Houses," said FRC president Tony Perkins. "In vetoing the measures, Gov. Carcieri rightly chose to tend to the serious business of governing Rhode Island and rejected those who seek to use government resources against anyone who would oppose their radical agenda."

Carcieri vetoed a bill in 2009 that would have added domestic partners' to the list of people authorized under state law to make funeral arrangements for each other. The General Assembly overrode that veto last January, but it seems unlikely lawmakers will take a similar approach this time because their session ended earlier this year so legislators could begin their campaigns ahead of the November election.

"If they do an override session we will push hard for this bill to be considered," Heroux said.

Carcieri has been at odds with LGBT Rhode Islanders for a long time.

He faced widespread condemnation after he spoke at a Massachusetts Family Institute fundraiser last October. Carcieri told the 300 attendees he believed marriage was "not a civil right."

The governor's term expires in January, but Attorney General Patrick Lynch, who is one of the candidates who hopes to succeed him, continues to tout his record of fighting for LGBT civil rights and prosecuting hate crimes.

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