January 22, 2013 at 4:01 pm EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
R.I. House committee unanimously approves same-sex marriage bill

Lincoln Chafee, Rhode Island, gay news, Washington Blade

Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee speaks at a press conference on Monday that announced a coalition of groups in support of the state’s same-sex marriage law. (Photo courtesy of Christian Vareika)

The Rhode Island House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday unanimously approved a bill that would allow same-sex couples to marry in the state.

The 11-0 vote clears the way for a vote on the measure in the full House of Representatives on Thursday.

“After hearing testimony from every day Rhode Islanders – gay and straight, friends, family, and community leaders – the committee resoundingly endorsed extending the unique protections and recognition of marriage to all loving, committed couples,” Ray Sullivan, campaign director for Rhode Islanders United for Marriage, a group that supports the bill, said. “This historic, affirmative vote moves us one step closer to finally making the Ocean State a place where all families are valued, respected and treated equally.”

State Rep. Arthur Handy (D-Cranston,) who introduced the same-sex marriage bill in the House, also welcomed the vote.

“It’s just overwhelming to see a unanimous ‘yes’ vote on marriage equality by a panel of elected officials in Rhode Island,” he said. “This is a historic moment when our state is at last turning toward acceptance and equality of all people. So many Rhode Islanders have been yearning for the moment when their relationships and their families have the same rights and responsibilities as any other. It’s an honor to be able to play a part in this journey.”

Nine states and D.C. currently allow gays and lesbians to marry.

Rhode Island remains the only New England state without a same-sex marriage law, but Gov. Lincoln Chafee told the Washington Blade last week that nuptials for gays and lesbians are “long overdue” in the Ocean State.

“With this afternoon’s vote, we are one step closer to the day when gay and lesbian Rhode Islanders can enjoy the same fundamental rights, benefits, and privileges as all other citizens of our state. It is my hope that that day will come soon,” he said in a statement shortly after the House Judiciary Committee approved the same-sex marriage measure. “I urge the leaders of the House and Senate to call the roll, and I will be proud to sign this important legislation when it reaches my desk.”

Michael K. Lavers has been a staff writer for the Washington Blade since May 2012. The passage of Maryland's same-sex marriage law, the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the burgeoning LGBT rights movement in Latin America and the consecration of gay New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson are among the many stories he has covered since his career began in 2002. Follow Michael

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