A Rhode Island House panel on Wednesday will consider a bill which would legalize gay marriage in the state.

The House Judiciary Committee will hear testimony on the marriage bill, which is sponsored by Democratic Representative Arthur Handy.

Senator Rhoda Perry is expected to carry the proposal in the Senate.

Rhode Island lawmakers last year abandoned efforts to approve a gay marriage bill in favor of civil unions over the loud opposition of many gay rights activists.

Governor Lincoln Chafee signed civil unions into law but added that he supports marriage for gay couples.

Handy's bill would recognize civil unions as marriages.

The committee will also consider a proposal by Rep. Larry Valencia which would allow gay couples married elsewhere to divorce in Rhode Island, regardless of whether such unions are recognized by the state. Another bill under consideration seeks to eliminate an amendment to last year's civil unions law which allows wedding providers such as bridal shops to refuse to service a civil union if they object to it on religious grounds.