Supporters of gay marriage in Rhode Island expressed their disappointment with a civil unions compromise during a Wednesday committee hearing, the AP reported.

Representative Peter Petrarca, a Democrat from Lincoln, introduced his civil unions bill after House Speaker Gordon Fox announced a gay marriage proposal has “no realistic chance” of being approved in the General Assembly this session. Fox, who is gay and backs marriage equality, said he would shift away from marriage and toward civil union for gay couples as a compromise.

Many supporters believe the marriage bill would have cleared the House. Less likely is the Senate, where President Teresa Paiva Weed has said she supports civil unions but not marriage for gay couples.

“This creates a separate status only for gay people to send a message that gay people are not worthy of the protections marriage provides,” Karen Loewy, an attorney with Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), told lawmakers on the House Judiciary Committee.

The National Organization for Marriage (NOM), the nation's most vociferous opponent of gay marriage, said it also opposed the compromise.

“Like similar legislation enacted in Connecticut and California, the proposed civil union legislation is nothing more than a Trojan Horse that will usher in same-sex marriage sooner rather than later,” said Chris Plante, executive director of the Rhode Island chapter of NOM, in a statement.

Plante urged legislators to “recognize this bill for what it is – a clear path for the courts to redefine marriage without the vote of the people.”

Petrarca pleaded with both sides to understand the need for a compromise.

“Both sides are acting like schoolchildren,” Petrarca chided. “We either do nothing and let this thing continue to fester, or give same-sex couples the rights they deserve.”

The panel could vote on the legislation as early as next week.