A new poll finds a large majority (59%) of Rhode Islanders support gay marriage.

The poll of 500 registered voters was commissioned by the Boston-based group Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD).

When asked, “Do you favor or oppose allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry legally?” fifty-nine percent of respondents were in favor and thirty-one percent were opposed.

The same poll conducted in 2008 found 49 percent in favor and 37 percent opposed.

“Rhode Islanders are ready to allow loving, committed same-sex couples to gain the dignity and respect that marriage brings, along with all of the legal rights and obligations that marriage brings,” Kathy Kushnir, executive director of Marriage Equality Rhode Island (MERI), said.

Rhode Island and Maine are the only New England states that have yet to legalize gay marriage. Maine lawmakers approved a gay marriage law last year, but opponents successfully repealed the law after a difficult fight that drew national attention to the tiny state.

Lawmakers in Rhode Island have considered a gay marriage bill every year since since 1977.

Leading candidates to replace Republican Governor Don Carcieri, who opposes giving gay and lesbian couples the right to marry, have pledged their support for a gay marriage bill. Rhode Island General Treasurer Frank Caprio, the likely Democratic nominee, and former senator Lincoln Chafee, who is running as an independent, are both leading Republican candidates John Robitaille and Victor Moffitt, neither of whom supports gay marriage, according to the latest Rasmussen poll.

Supporters are banking on a pro-gay marriage administration to help rebuild momentum on the issue.