The Rhode Island House of Representatives has approved a civil unions bill by a 62 to 11 vote, reports the Providence Journal.
The measure, which would still need to be approved by the Senate, would provide same-sex couples with the same "rights, benefits, protections, and responsibilities" that state law grants to married couples. ... The House Judiciary Committee voted 9 to 3 Tuesday to support House bill 6103.
Rep. Arthur Handy, D-Cranston ... introduced a floor amendment Thursday that would have allow same-sex couples to marry, but the Associated Press reported that House Speaker Gordon Fox ruled the marriage amendment out of order because it would rewrite the bill. Gay marriage supporters tried to overrule him but failed.
HB 6103 was introduced as a compromise after Fox—who became Rhode Island's first Black and first openly gay House speaker in February 2010—said a marriage equality bill did not have the votes to pass. Fox's decision has been criticized by some LGBT activists.
Democratic Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed opposed mariage equality but supports civil unions. Weed expects a civil unions bill to pass her chamber.
Same sex marriages are the law in neighboring Connecticut and Massachusetts. Rhode Island and Maine are the only two states lacking marriage equality laws in New England.