A Rhode Island Senate panel will hold hearings on a gay marriage bill starting on Thursday.

The House Judiciary Committee which is considering the legislation held an eight-and-a-half-hour hearing on the issue early last month. The House panel is expected to vote on the bill as early as next week.

Over the weekend, Rhode Island Representative Jim Langevin wrote an op-ed in which he added his support for the measure.

“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.

“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.”

The proposal also has the strong support of independent Governor Lincoln Chafee.

The nation's most vociferous opponent of gay marriage, the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), targeted Chafee in an ad released last month. NOM has also pledged $1 million to oppose the campaigns of Republicans who support a gay marriage bill in Maryland.