A Rhode Island Senate panel will consider the issue of gay marriage on Thursday.

The Senate Judiciary Committee will review a proposed measure which seeks to make Rhode Island the 10th state to legalize such unions and a proposed referendum which would put the issue in the hands of voters to decide.

Marriage equality advocates have criticized the referendum because it includes broad exemptions based on religious beliefs, including allowing small businesses not to participate in a marriage ceremony that “violates the institution or business owner's religious beliefs.”

Senator Frank Ciccone, a Republican, said he sponsored the bill in hopes it “would put an end to the question of gay marriage.”

“The two chambers have devoted enough time and effort on gay marriage,” Ciccone told the Providence Journal. “There are bigger things and more worries in the state right now that my constituents have been complaining about.”

The House overwhelmingly approved the marriage equality bill in January but passage remains in doubt in the Senate, where Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed is an opponent.