A Rhode Island Senate panel on Tuesday
approved a gay marriage bill, sending it to the full Senate where it
will face its final legislative hurdle.
The Senate Judiciary Committee approved
the bill with a 7-4 vote after brief remarks from Senator Donna
Nesselbush, the bill's champion in the Senate.
“In the early 1980s, I marched in my
first gay pride parade,” Nesselbush told colleagues. “And today,
some 30 years later, I am honored to be the lead sponsor of the
marriage equality bill.”
With a 6-5 vote, the committee also
rejected a bill sponsored by Senator Frank A. Ciccone, a Democrat,
which sought to allow voters to decide the issue.
The historic vote came after the panel
held a grueling 12-hour hearing on the bills last month.
A marriage bill has been introduced
every year since 1997 in Rhode Island, the only New England state
which does not allow gay and lesbian couples to marry. Two years
ago, lawmakers approved civil unions for gay couples.
Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed, an
opponent of marriage equality, previously pledged to bring the
marriage bill to the floor as soon as it emerges from the committee.
Republican support for gay marriage in Rhode Island Senate.)
UPDATE: The Senate has announced
it will debate the bill on Wednesday.