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R.I. speaker gives up on same-sex marriage

April 28, 2011 at 7:35 PM

PROVIDENCE, R.I., April 28 (UPI) -- The openly gay speaker of the Rhode Island House says the Legislature is not ready to pass a same-sex marriage bill and he now wants to legalize civil unions.

In a letter to lawmakers Wednesday, Gordon D. Fox, a Democrat, said he supports same-sex marriage and hopes it eventually will become legal in Rhode Island. He urged protesters at the statehouse demanding same-sex marriage to support his move.

"I am the speaker of the House and I am an openly gay man. This is very emotional for me," he said. "But as speaker, I understand counting votes and what I can deliver for all of us. And I believe I am delivering rights to us today and it's not killing the cause."

Gov. Lincoln Chafee, an independent, said he was hoping to sign a same-sex marriage bill this year. But he agreed that legalizing civil unions would be a step in the right direction.

Same-sex marriage is legal in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire, Iowa and the District of Columbia. A number of other states recognize civil unions that convey most of the practical benefits of marriage.

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