Wednesday November 25th, 2015 11:17AM

RI House to vote on gay marriage

By The Associated Press
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) -- The Rhode Island House is poised to debate and vote on legislation that would allow gay and lesbian couples to marry - the first time the issue has gone to a legislative vote in the only New England state without same-sex marriage.

Supporters and opponents of the legislation expect it to easily pass the House on Thursday, led by House Speaker Gordon Fox, who is gay. Both sides say the true test of the legislation lies in the Senate, where Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed opposes the legislation.

Gay marriage legislation has been introduced every year in the General Assembly since 1997, but Thursday's vote will mark the first time the issue has received a vote in either the House or Senate.

The bill has 42 sponsors in the 75-member House - an indication of just how easily it could pass. The bill's longtime sponsor, Rep. Art Handy, D-Cranston, said he's seen a widespread change of opinion on gay marriage and that even some previously staunch opponents in the legislature may give the bill a second thought when the roll is called.

"It's a harder `no' vote than people may have thought," he said.

Supporters are hoping to build on national momentum following the votes in Maine, Maryland and Washington. Meanwhile, in Minnesota, voters rejected a proposed state constitutional amendment that would have prohibited gay marriage, the first time such a ballot question has failed in the United States.

Opponents are hoping this heavily Catholic state maintains its current marriage laws.

"Rhode Islanders care about marriage and they don't want to see it redefined," said Christopher Plante, director of the state chapter of the National Institute for Marriage, which opposes same-sex marriage.

Should the bill pass the House it could be weeks or months before it receives a vote in the Senate. Paiva Weed, a Newport Democrat, said last week she couldn't support the legislation as written. But she has said she will allow the Senate Judiciary Committee to review and vote on the bill if it passes the House.

Gov. Lincoln Chafee, an independent, supports the bill and said he hopes to sign it into law this year. Last year he signed an executive order requiring the state to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states.

Two years ago, Fox dropped gay marriage legislation after he concluded the bill would not pass the Senate. Instead, lawmakers passed civil unions for same-sex couples. There has been little interest: in the year since civil unions were first offered, only 68 couples obtained civil union licenses.
© Copyright 2015
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
S&P 500 index has its best year since 1997
The stock market closed out a record year with more all-time highs on Tuesday, giving U.S. indexes their biggest annual gains in almost two decades.
6:56PM ( 1 year ago )
Colorado readies for 'Green Wednesday' pot sales
Police were adding extra patrols around pot shops in eight Colorado towns that plan to allow recreational sales to anyone over 21 on Jan. 1.
1:52PM ( 1 year ago )
Kerry seeks framework for Mideast peace talks
A senior State Department official says Secretary of State John Kerry will try this week to get Israel and the Palestinians to agree on a framework for negotiating a final peace agreement, yet cautions against raising expectations for Kerry's latest round of shuttle diplomacy.
1:35PM ( 1 year ago )
U.S. News
Ethics laws set to take effect Jan. 1 in Georgia
After dominating much of the legislative session, a set of major ethics reforms is scheduled to take effect Jan. 1.
7:04PM ( 1 year ago )
Sex offender held in Hall County for failing to register
A 47-year-old man was booked into the Hall County Jail Tuesday, being held without bond for allegedly failing to register as a sex offender, his second such arrest.
6:09PM ( 1 year ago )
Pharmacy robberies may involve same suspect
Oakwood Police Tuesday afternoon released details in a pharmacy robbery they're investigating, similar to one that happened in the Hall County Tuesday morning.
5:46PM ( 1 year ago )
Local/State News
Feds announce test sites for drone aircraft
The Federal Aviation Administration announced six states on Monday that will develop test sites for drones, a critical next step for the march of the unmanned aircraft into U.S. skies.
2:23PM ( 1 year ago )
Congress letting 55 tax breaks expire at year end
In an almost annual ritual, Congress is letting a package of 55 popular tax breaks expire at the end of the year, creating uncertainty - once again - for millions of individuals and businesses.
2:21PM ( 1 year ago )
Feeling US snub, Saudis strengthen ties elsewhere
Increasingly vocal in its frustration over U.S. policies in the Mideast, Saudi Arabia is strengthening ties elsewhere, seeking out an alignment that will bolster its position after it was pushed to the sidelines this year.
4:34PM ( 1 year ago )
The Latest: UN Security Council strongly condemns 'horrifying' attack in Mali, urges probe
BAMAKO, Mali (AP) — The latest on the attack on a hotel in the Malian capital of Bamako. (All times local):___4:55 a.m.The U.N. Security Council is condemning "the horrifying terrorist attack" at the...
10:58PM ( 4 days ago )
World leaders vow vigorous response to Paris terror spree, but little indication of next steps
ANTALYA, Turkey (AP) — World leaders vowed a vigorous response to the Islamic State group's terror spree in Paris as they opened a two-day meeting in Turkey on Sunday, with President Barack Obama call...
2:14PM ( 1 week ago )
Rash of E. coli cases in Pacific Northwest highlights problem of foodborne illnesses
SEATTLE (AP) — As Chipotle prepares to reopen its restaurants in the Pacific Northwest this week after an E. coli outbreak that sickened about 45 people, health experts say foodborne illnesses are mor...
1:40AM ( 2 weeks ago )
Biden says he will not run for president in 2016, finalizing field of Democratic candidates
Vice President Joe Biden will not run for president in 2016, he said Wednesday, ending a months-long flirtation with a third White House campaign and setting him on a glide path toward the end of his decades-long political career.
1:34PM ( 1 month ago )
UN is next stop for Obama after success with Iran, pope; top issues are IS, Syria, Russia
NEW YORK (AP) — Fresh from successes on Iran and with the pope, President Barack Obama still carried heavy burdens into critical meetings this week at the U.N. General Assembly.They include the threat...
3:31PM ( 1 month ago )