Same-sex marriage takes center stage in the Rhode Island state legislature on Tuesday as the House Judiciary Committee is scheduled to review a proposedmarriage equality bill.
The committee is expected to hear several hours of testimony this evening from gay marriage supporters and opponents.
Supporters of the bill, which includes Gov. Lincoln Chafee (I) say same-sex marriage is a civil rights issue and want to see the state join the rest of New England in allowing same-sex couples to wed.
Rhode Island state lawmakers formally introduced bills in the state House and Senate on Jan. 3 to legalize marriage equality for same-sex couples, setting the stage for Rhode Island to become the tenth state to where same-sex marriage is legal.
State Rep. Arthur Handy (D-Cranston, R.I.), the bill’s sponsor in the House, said that he’s confident the marriage bill will pass this time around. More than 40 members of the 75-member House have signed on as co-sponsors.
The House is expected to vote on the bill by month’s end.
In the Senate, the measure was introduced by Sen. Donna Nesselbush (D-Pawtucket); the Senate version has 11 sponsors in the 38-member Senate.House Speaker Gordon Fox (D-Providence), who is also openly gay, said he wanted a vote on the measure by Jan. 31.
In 2011, Fox dropped marriage legislation when it became apparent the Senate wouldn’t pass the bill. Instead, lawmakers approved civil unions for same-sex couples that offer many of the legal rights afforded to married couples.