The Rhode Island House Judiciary Committee will begin considering a gay marriage bill on Wednesday, the AP reported.

The measure enjoys the support of Governor Lincoln Chafee, an independent, and Democratic House Speaker Gordon Fox, who is openly gay. Fox is a co-sponsor of the bill.

Lawmakers in the state have debated gay marriage every year since 1997.

Chafee's predecessor, Don Carcieri, a Republican, angered gay rights supporters in 2009 when he became the keynote speaker at the Massachusetts Family Institute's annual fundraiser, where he told the group that marriage is “not a civil right.” During his tenure, Carcieri and his wife joined the Rhode Island chapter of the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), the nation's most vociferous opponent of gay marriage. Last year, he vetoed a bill that would have given gay couples the same rights to plan the funerals of their late partners as married couples.

Chafee, who says marriage equality will deliver a much needed economic boost to the state, has become the target of NOM in a new anti-gay marriage ad.

Lawmakers in Maryland and New York are also expected to debate the issue.

The Hawaii Senate on Friday approved a bill that recognizes gay and lesbian couples with civil unions, and Illinois Governor Pat Quinn will sign a similar measure into law on Monday.