The Rhode Island House on Thursday
overwhelmingly approved a bill which seeks to legalize gay marriage
in the state.
Following an emotional debate, the
House voted 51-19 to approve Representative Arthur Handy's bill.
The proposed legislation now moves to
the Senate, where Democratic leaders remain opposed but have promised
to hold a committee hearing.
Ken Fish, 70, who watched the
proceedings from the viewing gallery, called the vote “history in
the making” in comments to the AP.
Marriage legislation has been
introduced every year in Rhode Island since 1997. Thursday's vote
marks the first time the issue has received a vote in either the
House or Senate.
Rep. Handy had accumulated 42 sponsors
for his bill going into the debate. That is, an additional 9 House
members joined in voting for the measure, a move which should hearten
supporters as the bill heads to the Senate.
As of last week, only 11 senators had
signed on to the measure in the 38-member Senate.
Rhode Island became the only New
England state without marriage equality after Maine voters in
November approved a referendum on the issue. The state currently
recognizes gay couples with civil unions.