The Rhode Island Senate’s judiciary committee voted 7-4 today to send a marriage equality vote forward to the full senate for a vote that could happen as early as Wednesday (24 April).
Rhode Island is the only New England state where gay marriage is not yet legal. Governor Lincoln Chafee has made clear he will sign the bill into law if it passes the senate.
The state’s House of Representatives easily passed a marriage equality bill in January. While the Senate vote is expected to be a tougher battle, there is increased optimism after The Senate Republican Caucus announced today that its five members will support the legislation.
‘This is an incredible and historic step forward in the campaign to ensure all loving, committed couples in Rhode Island have the freedom to marry,’ Rhode Islanders United for Marriage campaign director Ray Sullivan said in a statement.
Sullivan added: ‘We are pleased and proud that the members of the Judiciary Committee were so receptive to the thousands of their constituents who reached out and urged them to vote yes.’
There was other good news on the marriage equality front: the judiciary committee also voted 6-5 to defeat a bill that would have put marriage equality to a statewide referendum in 2014.
Sullivan called the bill ‘divisive and harmful.’