Rhode Island House Speaker to call for early vote on marriage equality

The Rhode Island General Assembly kicks off its 2013 session Tuesday, and the first big debate of the year is likely to center on same-sex marriage.

House Speaker Gordon Fox (D-Providence), who is openly gay, said he will call for an early vote on the topic in his chamber, reported Associated Press.

Last fall’s election saw marriage equality supporters gain seats in both the House and Senate, and advocates hope to build on victories around the nation by passing marriage legislation.

The November elections reduced the number of Republicans serving in the state’s General Assembly to only 11 out of 113.

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.

But within the first six months of the civil unions law taking effect, fewer than 50 couples took advantage of the new law.

Rhode Island is currently the only state in New England that has not legalized same-sex marriage, although it does recognize same-sex marriages performed out of state, and treats those unions in the same manner as married heterosexual couples.

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