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.