The committee is expected to hear several hours of testimony this evening from gay marriage supporters and opponents.
Supporters of the bill, which includes Gov. Lincoln Chafee (I) say same-sex marriage is a civil rights issue and want to see the state join the rest of New England in allowing same-sex couples to wed.
Rhode Island state lawmakers formally introduced bills in the state House and Senate on Jan. 3 to legalize marriage equality for same-sex couples, setting the stage for Rhode Island to become the tenth state to where same-sex marriage is legal.
State Rep. Arthur Handy (D-Cranston, R.I.), the bill’s sponsor in the House, said that he’s confident the marriage bill will pass this time around. More than 40 members of the 75-member House have signed on as co-sponsors.
The House is expected to vote on the bill by month’s end.
House Speaker Gordon Fox (D-Providence), who is also openly gay, said he wanted a vote on the measure by Jan. 31.
In 2011, Fox dropped marriage legislation when it became apparent the Senate wouldn’t pass the bill. Instead, lawmakers approved civil unions for same-sex couples that offer many of the legal rights afforded to married couples.