RI House Speaker: Gay Marriage Bill Won't Pass

By Staff | April 27, 2011 | 3:50 PM EDT

Providence, R.I. (AP) - Rhode Island's House speaker says legislation that would extend marriage rights to gay couples is dead for the year.

Speaker Gordon Fox is gay and was a leading supporter of the bill. He says it's clear the bill can't overcome opposition in the Senate.

The Providence Democrat says he'll instead sponsor civil union legislation giving same-sex couples the same state rights as married couples.

Wednesday's announcement deals a major setback to gay marriage advocates. Marriage Equality Rhode Island chairwoman Martha Holt calls civil unions a half-measure and says her group will oppose the legislation.

Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed's opposition was a key obstacle to gay marriage legislation. The Newport Democrat says she supports civil union legislation and believes it'll pass.

New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut, Iowa and Massachusetts and the District of Columbia have approved gay marriage laws.