A Rhode Island Senate hearing on
Thursday night might be a civil unions bill's final public airing
before being voted on in the chamber.
The Senate Judiciary Committee will
hear public comment on the measure two weeks after the House's
approval and on
the same day Illinois civil unions begin.
The upper chamber might vote on the
bill as early as next week, the AP reported.
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
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.
Supporters have predicted an easy
victory in the Senate and Governor Lincoln Chafee, an independent,
has said he'll sign the bill into law.
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.