Republican challengers to Rhode Island Representative David Cicilline oppose gay marriage, but support civil unions.

Cicilline, who joined three other openly gay members of Congress on November 2, looks likely to face a number of obstacles to re-election. His 2010 primary challenger, businessman Anthony Gemma, recently told The Wall Street Journal that he is “strongly considering” another stab at becoming the Democratic nominee.

Cicilline's approval rating headed south after he traded in his job as mayor of Providence for Washington, opening the door for a Republican candidate in one of the nation's bluest states.

Former state Representative John J. Loughlin, who narrowly lost to Cicilline in last year's general election, announced this week that he is “getting ready” for a rematch.

And a second Republican, former Rhode Island Police Superintendent Brendan P. Doherty, on Thursday officially threw his hat in the ring, the Providence Journal reported.

Doherty and Loughlin oppose giving gay and lesbian couples the right to marry, but support recognizing such relationships with civil unions.

Rhode Island appears poised to become the fifth state in the nation to legalize civil unions, a fact that suggests Cicilline is headed toward a bruising battle to keep his job.