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Gay marriage in Rhode Island to face its first vote next Tuesday

Could become tenth state in US to legalize same-sex marriage and the last do so in New England

Rhode Island is the only New England state in the US that has not yet made gay marriage legal.

But that may change as the state's House Judiciary Committee has scheduled a Tuesday (22 January) vote on a marriage equality measure that would allow gay and lesbian couples to marry in the geographically smallest US state.

The measure is expected to pass in committee where it would then go before the full House for a vote - possibly as soon as next week. While supporters of the bill, who include openly gay Democratic House Speaker Gordon Fox, are confident of achieving success in the House, the bill is expected to have a tougher time passing the Senate.

State governor Lincoln Davenport Chafee, now an independent after leaving the Republican party, came out in support of gay marriage and asked state lawmakers to join the rest of New England.

But the anti-gay marriage forces are ratcheting up their efforts to defeat the bill. The National Organization for Marriage (NOM) placed a full-page newspaper ad stating that 'marriage is worth preserving because kids are entitled to a mom and dad.'

But the a coalition called Rhode Islanders United For Marriage is fighting back calling the ad part of a 'deceitful media campaign.'

'Rather than engage in a civil dialogue about the legislation at hand, which would extend marriage rights to all loving, committed couples in the Ocean State, NOM is employing the well-worn tactics of those opposed to equality: fear mongering,' the group said in a statement.

Currently nine US states and the District of Columbia allow gay marriage.

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