With the passage of gay marriage in New Hampshire on Wednesday, Rhode Island becomes the lone New England state to not grant gay and lesbian couples the right to marry.

Lawmakers in the state have considered a gay marriage bill every year for the past 12 years without a single legislative vote cast on the issue. While other New England states moved ahead with civil unions for gay couples, activists in the nation's smallest state kept pressing for marriage.

And as the end of the legislative session approaches, another gay marriage bill appears to have stalled out in the Legislature.

Senators heard testimony on the bill in February and House members in May. Both meetings proved contentious as gay and lesbian rights advocates tangled with opponents. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence continues in its role as the primary opponent of the legislation, likening the institution to criminal offenses.

“The fact that two adults consent to an action doesn't make it morally right or socially acceptable,” Rev. Thomas J. Tobin, Bishop of the Diocese, said in written testimony in February. “After all, two consenting adults can engage in drug use, prostitution, bigamy, polygamy or other immoral activities.”

While Democrats dominate the Rhode Island Legislature and polling indicates that a majority (60%) of voters approve of gay marriage, lawmakers and Governor Donald Carcieri, a Republican, continue to reject the legislation.

In April, Carcieri and his wife, Sue, announced they had joined the Rhode Island chapter of the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), the nationwide group that has campaigned against gay marriage in California and New England, leaving little doubt that he would veto a gay marriage bill if lawmakers elected to send him one.

While advocates in the state continue to lobby lawmakers for passage this year – a noontime rally is being held Saturday at the Capital – they're thinking 2010, at which time the term-limited governor's 8-year term will be over.

“I am always hopeful,” Kathy Kushnir, executive director of Marriage Equality Rhode Island (MERI), told On Top Magazine. “We're so close to getting marriage equality in Rhode Island.”