As state legislative sessions wind down, we're just weeks away from learning whether lawmakers in New Jersey and New York will pass gay marriage this year. And Rhode Island, too!

With sensational headlines, farcical characters and a dramatic gay marriage subplot, the New York Senate stole the gay marriage spotlight for much of the spring. But attention is certain to return to the tiny state of Rhode Island as it ascends to new prominence as the lone New England holdout to not grant gay and lesbian couples the right to marry.

Last month, New Hampshire Governor John Lynch signed a gay marriage bill after neighboring states Vermont and Maine pulled out surprise spring victories. Connecticut legalized gay marriage last year and Massachusetts led the nation in 2004. Leaving scenic Rhode Island out of the New England gay marriage sweep.

The Ocean State, however, has had plenty of turns at bat: Lawmakers in the state have considered a gay marriage bill every year for the past 12 years without a single bill making it out of committee.

Gay marriage opponents are offering their own counter proposal this year. Democratic State Representative Jon Brien has introduced a bill that would place a gay marriage ban in the state's constitution. And Governor Donald Carcieri, a Republican, is in favor of the bill.

“Let the people decide,” he said Thursday in an interview broadcast on CBN's 700 Club. “I have my own view personally but I think that's the right way to deal with it. If the people of the state decide they want to define marriage as between same gender persons, so be it.”

“Every year we spend a large amount of time debating this issue,” Brien said. “It's getting more and more contentious and if we just put it to a vote, everyone knows where the people of Rhode Island stand. Then it will be over with.”

Supporting the governor and Brien is the nationwide anti-gay marriage group the National Organization for Marriage, or NOM, which recently opened an office in the state after Carcieri and his wife, Sue, joined the Rhode Island chapter of NOM.

But with 12 long years of debate and 5 years of gay marriage just a stone's throw away in Massachusetts, Rhode Islanders have grown increasingly comfortable with the idea of gay nuptials. In fact, a large majority (60%) of voters approve of gay marriage.

“To me, the issue of same-sex marriage boils down to a question of basic fairness,” former Rhode Island Senator Lincoln D. Chafee said Wednesday in an editorial in gay weekly Bay Windows. “Once you acknowledge that homosexuality exists not by choice, the next obvious step is to grant gays and lesbians the same liberties and freedoms as every other American.”

Without the governor's support, however, gay activists are thinking 2011, 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.”

Flanked by a sea of marriage equality and strong public support for gay nuptials, has Rhode Island become the gay marriage Alamo?