The Rhode Island House of Representatives could be holding hearings on same-sex marriage legislation within weeks and voting on the matter by the end of the month.
A spokesman for House Speaker Gordon Fox told The Associated Press that a bill to allow same-sex couples to marry in Rhode Island is expected to be filed Wednesday or Thursday.
Hearings in the House Judiciary Committee could begin quickly after Fox appoints lawmakers to the committee. He’s called for the House to vote on the measure by the end of the month.
Rep. Art Handy is collecting signatures of sponsors and also believes this is the year.
“This is the 11th time I’ve put this bill in,” he said.
Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed said she expects the Senate Judiciary Committee to take up the legislation if it passes the House. Paiva Weed is an opponent of same-sex marriage.
State Sen. Frank Ciccone said he’ll put in a bill to ask voters to define marriage as between a man and a woman.
“Instead of having a long legislative battle like other states have had, I am in favor of putting it on the ballot then if the voters of the state are in favor of it, then so be it,” he said.
Supporters of same-sex marriage think it’s dangerous to ask all voters to decide the rights of a minority of citizens.
“State representatives and senators are elected to make decisions. This issue has been closely watched and debated for a number of years. At this point, we think it’s appropriate for the General Assembly to go ahead and vote,” said Ray Sullivan of Marriage Equality of Rhode Island.
Lawmakers began their 2013 session on Tuesday.