Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee says he's eager for Rhode Island to legalize gay marriage.

Last Thursday, Democratic Rep. Art Handy of Cranston introduced a marriage equality bill in the House. 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.

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.

Speaking to the AP, Chafee, who two years ago signed a civil unions bill into law, said approval could help improve the state's image and even its economy.

“We want to be inclusive, welcoming everybody,” said Chafee, an independent. “And in particular [to the] creative, energetic people that so often are associated with the gay community.”

Rhode Island became the only New England state without marriage equality after Maine voters in November approved a referendum on the issue.