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Marriage Equality RI Director Ray Sullivan: 13 To Watch in RI in 2013

Tuesday, January 01, 2013


He’s served in the state legislature, worked for Congressman Jim Langevin and ran President Obama’s campaign in Rhode Island in 2008, but now Ray Sullivan finds himself at the center of what will be the most hotly debated topic in 2013:

Gay marriage.

As executive director of Marriage Equality Rhode Island (MERI), Sullivan’s goal is to convince lawmakers to pass a bill during the upcoming General Assembly session that will make Rhode Island the last state in New England to legalize same-sex marriage.

Sullivan co-sponsored same-sex marriage legislation during his tenure as a State Rep. between 2004 and 2010, but he watched as his colleagues dodged the issue. In 2011, his first year with MERI, lawmakers again took a flyer on gay marriage and instead opted for what he has called the “worst civil unions bill in the country.”

But times are changing and the politically savvy Sullivan knows he’s built some leverage with lawmakers who don’t want to be remembered for voting against the bill. That leverage only grew during the 2012 elections when marriage equality supporters joined forced with the unions and other progressive groups to target Senators they knew were opposed to gay marriage. Now Sullivan says there will be more pro-equality members of the legislature in 2013 than at any time in history.

Still, passage is far from a lock.

With the votes seemingly secured in the House, he now needs to convince the Senate to vote on the bill rather than attempt to punt on the issue. But with Senate President M. Teresa Paiva Weed and Senate Judiciary chairman Michael McCaffrey still opposed to gay marriage, there is a real possibility the legislation could be killed.

That’s where Sullivan can shine. He’s been in the trenches, understands how the legislature works and now lawmakers understand he’s got a army of supporters who will hold them accountable if they attempt to kick the can down the road.

For Sullivan, the time is now.


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