Rhode Island Next Gay Marriage Battleground

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The battle between traditional marriage and gay marriage is heating up in Rhode Island.

Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin visited the Ocean State last week to support the legislative efforts toward gay marriage. As a state senator, Shumlin worked to legalize gay marriage in Vermont in 2009. Shumlin, a Democrat, was elected governor last fall.

Vermont lawmakers authorized civil unions 10 years ago. Shumlin urged Rhode Island to avoid that "half step" and pass a full gay marriage law instead.

"We went halfway, and halfway on civil rights isn't good enough," he said during a joint news conference with Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee on Thursday.

Chafee, an independent and a long standing supporter of gay marriage, says if a measure is approved by the state legislature, he'll sign it.

A Rhode Island General Assembly committee has held hearings on the bill but has not yet voted to send it to the full House or Senate.

Chris Plante, director of the Rhode Island Chapter of the National Organization for Marriage, said he's optimistic the bill may stay bottled up in committee and never make it to a General Assembly vote.

Five states in the U.S., plus the District of Columbia allow same sex marriage. Supporters of traditional marriage recently shut down a push for same-sex marriage in Maryland.

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