A Rhode Island Senate panel will consider a bill that would recognize gay and lesbian couples with civil unions.

The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on the measure on Thursday, two weeks after the House approved the measure.

Democratic Representative Peter Petrarca offered his bill after House Speaker Gordon Fox, who is gay and backs marriage equality, announced that a gay marriage proposal sponsored by Democratic Representative Arthur Handy has “no realistic chance” of being approved in the General Assembly this session.

Fox's announcement that he would back civil unions over marriage for gay couples drew a loud protest from marriage equality supporters who said separate is never equal. The compromise also failed to mollify gay marriage opponents, who claimed the law would be used as a steppingstone to legalize gay marriage.

If approved, Rhode Island would become the fourth state after New Jersey, Hawaii, and Illinois to offers such unions. A civil unions bill in Colorado died in committee earlier this year. Illinois' law takes effect on Wednesday.