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Rhode Island House committee advances same-sex civil unions bill

Rhode Island House committee advances same-sex civil unions bill

A Rhode Island state House committee on Tuesday voted to advance a bill that would legalize civil unions for same-sex couples — the same bill that was met with scorn by gay marriage supporters and opponents at the committee hearing last week.

Supporters said the bill treats gay couples as a second-class minority, proponents of traditional marriage said the bill would amount to a state sanction of immoral behavior and open the door to same-sex marriage being approved in the courts.

The House Judiciary Committee voted 9-3 to advance the measure to a House vote now scheduled for Thursday.

The bill would allow gay couples to enter into civil unions granting all of the rights and benefits given to married couples under Rhode Island law, but stops short of sanctioning marriage. The proposal was introduced as a compromise after legislative leaders said gay marriage legislation lacked the votes to pass this year.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Peter J. Petrarca (D-Lincoln), surfaced earlier this month, after House Speaker Gordon D. Fox withdrew his support for a same-sex marriage bill.

Fox (D-Providence), who is openly gay, said he supports same-sex marriage but did not have the votes needed for passage in either the House or the Senate.

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