Rhode Island House Speaker Gordon Fox on Wednesday met with students protesting his decision to alter course from marriage to civil unions for gay and lesbian couples, the Providence Journal reported.

Citing insufficient support, Fox declared a gay marriage bill stuck in committee in the Legislature dead. Fox, an openly gay Democrat, announced he'll alter course and back a civil unions bill instead.

About 20 members of the group Rhode Island Students for Equality protested the move in front of Fox's House office.

“I have been in a domestic partnership for 11 years. I have lived it,” Fox told the crowd. “And I am not stepping back one iota from my belief that marriage equality is what Rhode Island needs. But I have to balance that with what we can achieve now.”

“I am the Speaker of the House and I am an openly gay man. This is very emotional for me,” he added. “But as speaker, I understand counting votes and what I can deliver for all of us. And I believe I am delivering right to us today and it's not killing the cause.”

Many of the students urged Fox to reverse course, arguing that approving civil unions would “put discrimination in our laws.”