Sixth grader Matthew Lannon was among the hundreds who offered testimony Thursday during a Rhode Island Senate panel considering a gay marriage bill.

The marathon hearing ended at nearly 5AM the following day, lasting an unprecedented 12 hours.

More than 650 people signed up to testify at the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing. Each was called up in groups of four.

“If Rhode Islanders truly believe in family values, we need to value all families,” said Senator Dawson Hodgson, a Republican. “No matter what this committee does, it won't touch your marriage. That's one of the nice things about the separation of church and state.”

The Rev. Phillip H. Curtis, pastor of Exeter Chapel, warned that only God had the authority to “redefine” marriage.

“If this goes forward, I ask you: By what authority will you redefine marriage? Who gave you or even the people of our state the right to change the definition of marriage? … [B]y what standard shall our marriage laws be defined now and in the future if [we] arbitrarily change its very definition? Where and by what logic will we draw the line? Will polygamy be permitted; incestuous marriages. In principle, why not?”

However, it was Matthew Lannon's testimony in support of his two moms that drew the most attention.

“My parents and all the other gay and lesbian people here want to be happy, just like you,” Lannon, 12, testified. “All they want is to be treated fairly. But unlike most of you, they have to come again here year after year and explain over and over why their love is equal to yours. This year, you have the opportunity to change that. I say, choose love.” (The video is embedded on this page. Visit our video library for more videos.)

The committee also took testimony on a proposed referendum sponsored by Senator Frank Ciccone, a Republican, which would put the issue of marriage equality 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.”

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