Rhode Island Representative Jim Langevin has written an op-ed in support of Rhode Island legalizing gay marriage.

The issue returns to the front burner in the state on Thursday as a House panel votes on a gay marriage bill and the Senate begins debate on its version.

“For many years, I supported civil unions as a reasonable way to achieve consensus on a divisive issue, providing rights and protections to same-sex couples while respecting the deeply held beliefs of those not comfortable with the idea of marriage rights,” Langevin wrote Saturday in The Providence Journal.

“Then, three years ago, I attended the commitment ceremony of a longtime staff member and his partner of nine years. Before their friends and family, they professed their love, commitment and respect for each other. Their sentiments were just as moving, heartfelt and sincere as any of the vows I had heard at other weddings, yet I realized that their union would not be treated the same under the law. That difference struck me as fundamentally unjust, and I began to challenge the wisdom of creating separate categories of rights for certain groups of citizens. I began to see that civil unions fell short of the equality I believed that same-sex couples deserved.”

“I am now convinced that affording full marriage equality rights to same-sex couples is the only fair and responsible approach for both Rhode Island and the nation. If our nation expects to provide equal protection for all, then our civic institutions must reflect that noble goal.”

“As the General Assembly considers this important topic, I ask lawmakers and all Rhode Islanders to honor our state's founding principles of tolerance and freedom and to support marriage equality in our state. It's time to do the right thing,” the 46-year-old Roman Catholic lawmaker added.