Rhode Island took a big step towards legalizing gay marriage today: same-sex marriage passed the state legislature 51-19, but faces a tougher battle in the Rhode Island state senate.
Steven Senne / AP
Rhode Island's House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly on Thursday in favor of a bill to make same-sex marriage legal, but officials in the strongly Democratic state expect the measure to face an uphill battle in the state Senate.
Democratic Representative Arthur Handy, lead sponsor of the bill, said the issue was "about fairness and allowing all Rhode Islanders to have equal access to the rights and responsibilities that come with marriage."
"It feels good to see how far we've come in Rhode Island toward valuing all families, and I know we are close to the day when marriage equality becomes law here," he said in a statement.
House Speaker Gordon Fox, a co-sponsor of the measure who is openly gay, said he was "thrilled."
"We are marching toward equality," he said in a statement.
The legislation, supported by independent Governor Lincoln Chafee, has been introduced in the House every year since 1997. Handy has put it forward annually since 2003.