Rhode Island Senate to hold crucial hearing on gay marriage

Updated
C. Kelly Smith, of Providence, R.I., center, a member of Marriage Equality Rhode Island, hugs fellow member Wendy Becker, left, also of Providence, after a...
C. Kelly Smith, of Providence, R.I., center, a member of Marriage Equality Rhode Island, hugs fellow member Wendy Becker, left, also of Providence, after a...
Steven Senne/AP

Lawmakers in Rhode Island are to meet for a hearing on gay marriage Thursday before the Senate Judiciary Committee to decide whether the state will join the rest of New England in allowing same-sex marriage.

If advanced through committee and passed in the Senate, a resolution allowing gay couples to marry will be on the ballot as a referendum. The referendum would also allow religious leaders the right to refuse to perform same-sex marriages.

Senate President M. Teresa Paiva Weed, a Democrat, stated her opposition for the bill–but said she will not block a vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

In January, the House passed the bill to make same-sex marriage legal. The bill, which passed the House 51-19, would grant full legal rights to gay couples in the state.

But officials expect the measure will face difficulty gaining favor in the Senate.

Nine states and the District of Columbia allow gay couples to marry. Since 2011, same-sex couples in Rhode Island have been allowed to enter into civil unions, providing state-level spousal rights to those couples.

Rhode Island Senate to hold crucial hearing on gay marriage

Updated