Ray Sullivan of Rhode Islanders United for Marriage and House Judiciary Chair Edith Ajello discuss gay marriage bill. Photo by Steve Klamkin WPRO News
By Steve Klamkin WPRO News and The Associated Press
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) - Legislation to allow gay and lesbian couples to marry in Rhode Island is heading to a debate and vote in the state House of Representatives.
A House committee voted unanimously Tuesday to forward the legislation to the House, which is expected to consider it on Thursday.
"It's a historic day," said Ray Sullivan, campaign coordinator of the group, Rhode Islanders United for Marriage, as the vote was announced.
Gay marriage advocates say they expect the bill to pass the House but they're less confident about its chances in the Senate. Gay marriage legislation has been introduced in Rhode Island for years, but has never made it a vote in either legislative chamber.
"Our focus from a grassroots campaign perspective is to reach out to all 113 members of the General Assembly to continue growing our broad and bipartisan coalition of supporters and sponsors in both chambers," said Sullivan.
Two years ago, lawmakers approved civil unions for same-sex couples after it became apparent gay marriage would not pass the Senate.
Opponents of gay marriage said that they would continue to press their case.
"Oh, this is round one, we've got a five round fight," said Darryl Lee, leader of the Faith Alliance to Preserve the Sanctity of Marriage as Established by God. He had led a rally at the State House last week, as the Judiciary Committee heard testimony on the bill.
"The legislature is making a mistake, legislatively and spiritually they're making a mistake redefining God's covenant of marriage," Lee said.
Nine states and Washington, D.C., allow same-sex marriage. Rhode Island is the only New England state without gay marriage.