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Senate panel hearing on Rhode Island marriage equality bill goes all night

Senate panel hearing on Rhode Island marriage equality bill goes all night

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Rhode Island senators heard testimony all night at the Statehouse on a bill that would legalize same-sex marriage in the state.

The pivotal Senate Judiciary Committee hearing adjourned just before 5 a.m. Friday. About 650 people had signed up to speak, including Gov. Lincoln Chafee, a supporter of same-sex marriage.

Lawmakers in the cramped committee room heard testimony throughout the night from lawyers, religious leaders and private citizens, while hundreds of supporters sang and cheered in the Statehouse rotunda. They stood just feet from opponents who held signs urging lawmakers to vote down the proposal. The demonstrations were often loud but orderly.

The legislation has passed in the House, but its fate on the Senate side is unclear.

While a final vote could still be months away, supporters in this heavily Catholic state say they sense Rhode Island could soon join nine other states and the District of Columbia in allowing same-sex marriage.

Opponents say a same-sex marriage law would force their religions to recognize something that violates their beliefs. Some at least want the question to be put to a popular vote.

Rhode Island is the only New England state that doesn’t allow same-sex couples to wed.

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