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PowerPlayer: Marriage Equality RI’s Ray Sullivan

Monday, October 17, 2011


GoLocalProv’s latest PowerPlayer has been involved with Rhode Island politics from every angle; as a reporter, a State Representative and a community organizer. Marriage Equality RI’s Ray Sullivan was kind enough to chat with GoLocalProv about what he’s seen through the years and what’s next for his organization.

1) You're a former reporter, elected official, campaign organizer and now you're running the show Marriage Equality. What's the most interesting job you've ever had?

I've been fortunate throughout my career to work with and for some wonderful people and I think of them often. Serving the people of Coventry and West Greenwich in the General Assembly was an honor and a privilege and I'm proud to have done it. Working for the Obama/Biden campaign in 2008 was an exhausting, historic whirlwind and I will never forget it. I've served at the pleasure of a number of remarkable elected leaders and candidates for office, but I believe the effort I'm part of now with Marriage Equality Rhode Island is some of the most important work I'll do in my lifetime. Political campaigns come and go, but it's not often you get to be part of a civil rights movement. The work we do at MERI is about winning dignity, recognition and equal rights for all Rhode Islanders, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation.

2) What's the biggest difference between focusing on one issue (marriage equality) versus juggling a lot of issues as a Representative or even working for the Obama campaign?

One of the best things about MERI is getting to work with the amazing, dedicated volunteers and supporters from across the state. The atmosphere can often resemble a political campaign: it's fast-paced, requires strategic planning and requires effective grassroots organizing.

3) Take us through a day in your life.

I'm an early riser and the best days are those that begin with walking my dog, Teddy. After that I do a quick review of emails and look at the day’s schedule. I read three or four papers, check various blogs, and am usually in the office before nine. Few days are the same, but there's a steady regimen of meetings with community leaders and supporters, and exchanges with our partners in the Rhode Island Marriage Coalition.

4) You've made it clear you expect same sex marriage to be major topic again during the 2012 General Assembly session and again during the elections. What can you tell us about your strategy moving forward?

Some legislators assumed that passing a flawed and discriminatory civil union bill would keep them from having to confront marriage equality in 2012. Nothing could be further from the truth. We'll be back on day one of the next General Assembly session talking about the need to pass marriage equality now, and we won't stop until we see the governor sign a marriage bill into law. We're also going to be working hard to repeal the discriminatory Corvese language which allows religiously-affiliated hospitals to ignore the legal standing of a civil union spouse. We support common-sense religious exemptions and protections, but the Corvese language is too broad and amounts to state-sanctioned discrimination.

You'll also see MERI PAC actively organizing and working to elect pro-equality legislators. Some legislators have ignored the will of the people for too long, they've stood in the way of progress and fairness, and it's time for them to go.

5) Tell us something nobody knows about you.

I recently became a vegetarian and desperately need a hair cut. That's two things, but the latter is by no means a secret.

Quick Hitters

Role Model: My mom and dad. Try as I might, I have inherited my mother's stubborn Irish will and my father's wit and quiet loyalty.

Favorite Restaurant: Local 121 (Don't tell Josh Miller)

Best Beach: My ancestors come from an island where it rains most of the year, so it's not often you'll see this son of Erin at the beach, but I loved going to Sand Hill Cove when I was a kid.

Best Book You've Read This Year: The Dorr War: Treason, Rebellion and the Fight for Reform in Rhode Island

Advice For The Next Ray Sullivan: Work hard and don't complain. This work isn't for everyone, but it beats selling insurance and you have a rare opportunity to make a difference. Don't waste it.

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