Gay marriage bills were introduced Thursday in the Rhode Island House and Senate.

Democratic Rep. Art Handy of Cranston introduced his bill in the House on Thursday afternoon. Senator Donna Nesselbush, an openly gay Democrat from Pawtucket, introduced her version moments later.

Handy's bill includes more than enough co-sponsors to assure passage in the House. In the Senate, which is led by President Teresa Paiva Weed, an opponent of marriage equality, support is not quite as robust. Nesselbush's measure has 11 sponsors in the 38-member Senate.

Rhode Island remains the only New England state without marriage equality, despite large Democratic majorities in both chambers of the General Assembly. (Under an executive order signed by Governor Lincoln Chafee, the state recognizes the marriages of gay and lesbian couples performed elsewhere.)

House Speaker Gordon Fox, who is openly gay, has pledged to hold a vote on the bill before the end of the month. Senate President Weed has said she expects that the Senate Judiciary Committee will take up the issue if the legislation passes the House.

Handy told the Cranston Patch that marriage equality was “long overdue” in Rhode Island.

“We are long overdue,” he said. “Rhode Island, the colony founded on the principle of personal liberty, is now the only New England sate that doesn't allow same-gender couples equal marriage. Rhode Islanders recognize that same-gender couples deserve the rights and responsibilities that other couples already enjoy, and support has been getting wider every year.”

Nesselbush said the issue was “intensely personal.”

“After many years, I have finally found the woman I want to spend the rest of my life with, the woman I want to marry,” she said. “We are deeply in love, and are hoping and praying for marriage equality so we can tie the knot.”