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Lincoln Chafee on Civil Rights

Former Republican Senator (RI, 1999-2007)


Gay marriage is a state issue, not for federal constitution

Q: Should same sex marriage be considered a state or federal matter?

CHAFEE: For our whole history, the federal government has never been involved in marriage issues. So this is a state issue. There was a vote to change our federal constitution to forbid states from passing their own laws and of course I voted against that.

WHITEHOUSE: I support the right of states to allow same-sex marriage. It is wrong for the federal government to intervene in what has always been a state issue.

Source: 2006 RI Senate debate, by RIBA and WPRI-12 Sep 13, 2006

Supports “Sexual orientation protected by civil rights laws”

Chafee voted YES on S.2549, an amendment that would expand the definition of hate crimes to include gender, sexual orientation and disability. The previous definition included only racial, religious or ethnic bias.
Source: Voted FOR including gays in hate crimes Sep 20, 2000

Continue affirmative action programs

Source: Vote-smart.org, 2000 NPAT Jan 1, 2000

Voted NO on recommending Constitutional ban on flag desecration.

The Senate voted on a resolution which would recommend a Constitutional Amendment banning flag desecration (not a vote on the Amendment itself). The resolution states:
  1. the flag of the US is a unique symbol of national unity...
  2. the Bill of Rights should not be amended in a manner that could be interpreted to restrict freedom...
  3. abuse of the flag causes more than pain and distress... and may amount to fighting words...
  4. destruction of the flag of the US can be intended to incite a violent response rather than make a political statement and such conduct is outside the protections afforded by the first amendment to the Constitution.
Reference: Flag Desecration Amendment; Bill S.J.Res.12 ; vote number 2006-189 on Jun 27, 2006

Voted NO on constitutional ban of same-sex marriage.

Voting YES implies support for amending the constitution to ban same-sex marriage. This cloture motion to end debate requires a 3/5th majority. A constitutional amendment requires a 2/3rd majority. The proposed amendment is:
Marriage in the United States shall consist only of the union of a man and a woman. Neither this Constitution, nor the constitution of any State, shall be construed to require that marriage or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon any union other than the union of a man and a woman.
Reference: Marriage Protection Amendment; Bill S. J. Res. 1 ; vote number 2006-163 on Jun 7, 2006

Voted YES on adding sexual orientation to definition of hate crimes.

Motion to Invoke Cloture on S. 625; Local Law Enforcement Enhancement Act of 2001. The bill would expand the definition of hate crimes to incorporate acts committed because of a victim's sex, sexual orientation or disability and permit the federal government to help states prosecute hate crimes even if no federally protected action was implicated. If the cloture motion is agreed to, debate will be limited and a vote will occur. If the cloture motion is rejected debate could continue indefinitely and instead the bill is usually set aside. Hence a Yes vote supports the expansion of the definition of hate crimes, and a No vote keeps the existing definition. Three-fifths of the Senate, or 60 members, is required to invoke cloture.
Reference: Bill S.625 ; vote number 2002-147 on Jun 11, 2002

Voted YES on loosening restrictions on cell phone wiretapping.

Motion to table (kill) the amendment that would provide that in order to conduct roving surveillance, the person implementing the order must ascertain that the target of the surveillance is present in the house or is using the phone that has been tapped.
Reference: Bill S1510 ; vote number 2001-300 on Oct 11, 2001

Voted YES on expanding hate crimes to include sexual orientation.

Vote on an amendment that would expand the definition of hate crimes to include gender, sexual orientation and disability. The previous definition included only racial, religious or ethnic bias.
Reference: Bill S.2549 ; vote number 2000-136 on Jun 20, 2000

Require 90 day delay for compliance before ADA lawsuits.

Chafee adopted the Republican Main Street Partnership agenda item:

H.R. 914/S. 872 the ADA Notification Act.
Republican Main Street Partnership Congressman Mark Foley (FL) introduced this legislation to protect the Americans with Disabilities Act from a growing number of lawyers who are generating huge sums in legal fees for pointing out accessibility violations by business when often simple fixes would bring properties into compliance with the ADA's accessibility standards. This variety of litigation abuse stems from the lack of any notification provision in the ADA. RMSP supports a 90-day delay between notification of an alleged accessibility violation and any legal proceedings. This notification will allow honest business owners to become ADA compliant without added legal expense while freeing up the courts to pursue legal action against bad players.

Source: Republican Main Street Partnership Legislative Agenda 02-RMSP8 on May 24, 2002

Limit interstate class-action lawsuits to federal courts .

Chafee adopted the Republican Main Street Partnership agenda item:

H.R. 2341/S. 1712 Class Action Fairness Act.
Class Action suits, most often claiming product defects, have increasingly become fertile ground for unscrupulous trial attorneys. Using jurisdictional loopholes, trial lawyers are suing for enormous sums with little or no payout to injured parties. Multi-million dollar interstate lawsuits filed on behalf of irrelevant plaintiffs, often unaware that a claim has been filed, are filed in state courts. This increases the volume of claims filed, and leads to multiple, expensive, settlements. H.R. 2341, supported by Republican Main Street Partnership Reps. Judy Biggert (IL), Tom Davis (VA), Porter Goss (FL), Melissa Hart (PA), George Nethercutt (WA), and Rob Simmons (CT), eases the burden of addressing interstate claims in federal court. At the federal level, courts have greater resources and uniform rules. This provides a more appropriate venue for such cases and protects legitimate claimants ability to recover losses.

Source: Republican Main Street Partnership Legislative Agenda 02-RMSP9 on May 24, 2002

Rated 60% by the ACLU, indicating a mixed civil rights voting record.

Chafee scores 60% by the ACLU on civil rights issues

We work also to extend rights to segments of our population that have traditionally been denied their rights, including Native Americans and other people of color; lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgendered people; women; mental-health patients; prisoners; people with disabilities; and the poor. If the rights of society’s most vulnerable members are denied, everybody’s rights are imperiled.

Our ratings are based on the votes the organization considered most important; the numbers reflect the percentage of time the representative voted the organization's preferred position.

Source: ACLU website 02n-ACLU on Dec 31, 2002

Other candidates on Civil Rights: Lincoln Chafee on other issues:
RI Gubernatorial:
Donald Carcieri
RI Senatorial:
Jack Reed
Sheldon Whitehouse

Newly elected in 2008 & seated in 2009:
AK:Begich (D)
CO:Udall (D)
ID:Risch (R)
MN:Franken (D)
NC:Hagan (D)
NE:Johanns (R)
NH:Shaheen (D)
NM:Udall (D)
OR:Merkley (D)
VA:Warner (D)

Newly appointed in 2009;
special election in 2010:

DE:Kaufman (D)
CO:Bennet (D)
IL:Burris (D)
NY:Gillibrand (D)

Announced retirement as of 2010:
DE:Kaufman (D)
FL:Martinez (R)
KS:Brownback (R)
MO:Bond (R)
OH:Voinovich (R)


Up for 6-year term in 2010:
(13 Democrats; 15 Republicans)
AK:Murkowski (R)
AL:Shelby (R)
AR:Lincoln (D)
AZ:McCain (R)
CA:Boxer (D)
CT:Dodd (D)
GA:Isakson (R)
HI:Inouye (D)
IA:Grassley (R)
ID:Crapo (R)
IN:Bayh (D)
KY:Bunning (R)
LA:Vitter (R)
MD:Mikulski (D)
NC:Burr (R)
ND:Dorgan (D)
NH:Gregg (R)
NV:Reid (D)
NY:Schumer (D)
OK:Coburn (R)
OR:Wyden (D)
PA:Specter (R)
SC:DeMint (R)
SD:Thune (R)
UT:Bennett (R)
VT:Leahy (D)
WA:Murray (D)
WI:Feingold (D)
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Page last updated: Nov 22, 2009