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
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.
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.