A Rhode Island lawmaker will introduce a gay marriage bill on Thursday.

State Representative Arthur Handy, a Democrat from Cranston, told The Providence Journal that he's already lined up 27 co-sponsors for the measure. The measure enjoys the support of House Speaker Gordon Fox.

“I would like it done earlier than later, only because later you get into budget issues and your focus sort of changes,” Fox, an openly gay Democrat from Providence, told the paper.

The bill faces a steep incline in the Senate and competition from a promised House measure that seeks to put the question up for a vote.

Governor Lincoln Chafee called on lawmakers to legalize gay marriage in his Tuesday inauguration speech.

The Republican turned independent said a gay marriage law would stimulate economic growth and “honor our forefathers who risked their lives and fortune in the pursuit of human equality.”

Chafee's predecessor, Don Carcieri, a Republican, opposed marriage equality, and is a member of the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), the nation's most vociferous opponent of gay marriage. Last year, he rankled gay activists when he spoke at a fundraiser in Boston for the anti-gay group Massachusetts Family Institute (MFI).

On Wednesday, Rhode Island Representative David Cicilline was sworn in, becoming the fourth openly gay member of Congress.

Rhode Island lawmakers have considered a gay marriage bill every year since 1997.