The debate over whether to legalize gay marriage in Rhode Island returns to the front burner next week.

The House Judiciary Committee which is considering the legislation held an eight-and-a-half-hour hearing on the issue early last month and could vote on the measure as early as next Thursday, the same day a Senate panel is expected to begin debate on its version of the bill, the Providence Journal reported.

House Speaker Gordon D. Fox said the proposal enjoys “strong support” in the House and that he would like to move along the legislation to make way for debate on the state budget and other issues.

“I'd like to get something done sooner with marriage equality so that we can move on to those discussions,” Fox, who is openly gay, said. “How soon? That's going to depend on how soon I can get done laying my groundwork.”

Opponents of the bill include the Roman Catholic Church and the Rhode Island chapter of the National Organization for Marriage (NOM-RI). NOM has successfully campaigned against gay marriage laws in California and Maine.

The group has attacked Governor Lincoln Chafee for his support of the measure. NOM is also battling against the institution's legalization in Maryland.