January 24, 2013 - 13:13 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - The Rhode Island House is poised to debate and vote on legislation that would allow gay and lesbian couples to marry — the first time the issue has gone to a legislative vote in the only New England state without same-sex marriage, The Associated Press reports.
Supporters and opponents of the legislation expect it to easily pass the House on Thursday, Jan 24, led by House Speaker Gordon Fox, who is gay. Both sides say the true test of the legislation lies in the Senate, where Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed opposes the legislation.
Gay marriage legislation has been introduced every year in the General Assembly since 1997, but Thursday's vote will mark the first time the issue has received a vote in either the House or Senate.
The bill has 42 sponsors in the 75-member House — an indication of just how easily it could pass. The bill's longtime sponsor, Rep. Art Handy, D-Cranston, said he's seen a widespread change of opinion on gay marriage and that even some previously staunch opponents in the legislature may give the bill a second thought when the roll is called.
"It's a harder 'no' vote than people may have thought," he said.
Supporters are hoping to build on national momentum following the votes in Maine, Maryland and Washington. Meanwhile, in Minnesota, voters rejected a proposed state constitutional amendment that would have prohibited gay marriage, the first time such a ballot question has failed in the United States.
Opponents are hoping this heavily Catholic state maintains its current marriage laws.