As the debate over gay marriage is preparing to return to Rhode Island, a new poll finds majority support for the institution.

The poll released Monday by WPRI Channel 12 found 56.3 percent of respondents in favor of legalizing gay nuptials, while 36 percent remain opposed. Eight percent said they did not know.

A large majority (72%) of Democrats and a narrow majority (50.2%) of independents support such unions. Fifty-nine percent of Republicans said they oppose marriage equality.

Marriage supporters have decried a civil unions law approve by lawmakers in 2011, calling it one of the weakest in the nation, and have continued lobbying for full marriage rights. The General Assembly ended its 2012 session without taking up debate on bills related to gay marriage. One such bill sought to legalize marriage equality.

Last month, House Speaker Gordon D. Fox repeated his promise to bring such a bill to a vote next year. However, Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed, an opponent of gay nuptials, has declined to say whether she would allow a vote on the issue to reach the Senate floor.

(Source: WPRI Channel 12.)