A Rhode Island bill that would
recognize gay and lesbian couples with civil unions cleared a House
committee on Tuesday.
The House Judiciary Committee approved
the measure with a 9-3 vote, sending the measure to the full House,
which has scheduled a Thursday vote.
Lawmakers were supposed to debate gay
marriage this session, but House Speaker Gordon Fox, who is gay and
backs marriage equality, offered civil unions as a compromise after
announcing that a gay marriage proposal has “no realistic chance”
of being approved in the General Assembly this session.
Gay marriage supporters, however, are
expected to attempt a last-ditch effort on Thursday with a House
floor amendment to the civil unions bill that would transform it into
a gay marriage bill. House Representative Arthur Handy, the original
sponsor of the now dead gay marriage bill, is expected to introduce
“We've never enshrined discrimination
in our laws, and that's what this [civil unions bill] does,” Handy
told the AP. “People have worked so hard on this issue. This is
the year, and this is the path to do it.”
After committee members voted on the
civil unions bill, an opponent of gay marriage was forcefully removed
for shouting at lawmakers. “It doesn't matter what the people
want,” she shouted. “This is not a democratic society.”