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Rhode Island Senate panel to consider marriage equality bill this week

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — The Rhode Island state Senate will be considering a marriage equality bill when lawmakers return this week for the final work of their annual session.

The Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to consider legislation allowing gay couples to wed. The session is scheduled for 3 p.m. Tuesday.

Also up for consideration is a bill that would place the question of allowing gay marriage on next year’s ballot.

The committee heard testimony last month from more than 600 supporters and opponents in a hearing that lasted until 5 a.m. the following morning. Among those testifying before the committee was Gov. Lincoln Chafee, a supporter of same-sex marriage.

The House previously approved the marriage equality bill in January, but its fate in the Senate is uncertain.

Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed, a Democrat, opposes the gay marriage bill, but said she intends to allow a full and unobstructed debate.

Gay marriage supporters said Friday they are pleased the committee vote has been set.

Rhode Islanders United for Marriage issued a statement saying it believes it has a “path to victory” but is taking nothing for granted.

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

Associated Press contributed to this report.

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