Archambault Predicts Senate Will Pass Same-Sex Marriage; Options Open for 2014

Mar 28, 2013

Credit Ian Donnis / RIPR

State Senator Stephen Archambault (D-Smithfield) believes the "marriage equality" bill backed by same-sex marriage proponents will emerge from the Senate Judiciary Committee and receive overwhelming support in the full Senate.

"I expect it will go to a [committee] vote, and I'm confident it will pass," Archambault says of the same-sex marriage bill introduced by state Senator Donna Nesselbush (D-Pawtucket).

The Judiciary Committee hasn't scheduled a vote on Nesselbush's bill or competing legislation introduced by Senator Frank Ciccone (D-Providence) that includes broad exemptions and makes same-sex marriage contingent on a statewide vote. Exactly when the vote will occur remains unclear.

If and when the "marriage equality" bill goes to the full Senate, "I think the green lights will be lighting up like a Christmas tree and I think you'll only see a sprinkling of red dots up there," Archambault said during an interview Thursday at RIPR. "I really believe that."

Archambault was among the most vocal lawmakers during a marathon Judiciary Committee hearing on the two competing same-sex marriage bills last week.  He says his constituents in Smithfield, generally seen as leaning conservative, have been very supportive of same-sex marriage.

The evolution of Senator Lou Raptakis (D-Coventry), who is supportive of a full Senate vote on the same-sex marriage bills, suggests a path for the legislation to the Senate floor. Opponents of same-sex marriage bill are rallying behind Ciccone's referendum bill; Christopher Plante of the National Organization for Marriage-RI says  he thinks the Judiciary Committee won't pass the Nesselbush bill.

Archambault won his Senate seat in 2012. He significantly raised his legislative profile during last week's Judiciary Committee hearing, taking part in measured discussion with a number of witnesses and squaring off against a pastor who opposes same-sex marriage during one particularly sharp exchange.

Regarding his outspokenness, Archambault says:

"I'm humble when I'm up at the Statehouse, but I don't look at it like I'm a freshman, having been in town government, running statewide [for attorney general in 2010]; I don't hold back with my opinions. If I've got something to say I'm going to say it."

Archambault spoke during a taping of RIPR Political Roundtable (set to air at 5:40 and 7:40 am Friday) and Bonus Q+A (airing at 6:40 and 8:40 am Friday).

The Smithfield Democrat placed second in a three-way Democratic primary won by Attorney General Peter Kilmartin in 2010. Archambault, who says his current focus is on the Senate, isn't ruling out a run for an office other than the Senate in 2014.

With Kilmartin looking strong for re-election, Archambault could emerge as a candidate for lieutenant governor. The senator would only say he's keeping the door open:

"I'm a driven man," Archambault says. "I have aspirations and I'm not quite sure where they'll take me. I trust in myself and the voters, and I'm going to give everything I can to make sure I do a good job."