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Vote puts Rhode Island a step closer to gay marriage

Demonstrators opposed to same-sex marriage during a rally at the Statehouse, in Providence, R.I. on Tuesday.
Demonstrators opposed to same-sex marriage during a rally at the Statehouse, in Providence, R.I. on Tuesday.Steven Senne / AP file

Lawmakers in Rhode Island's House on Thursday easily passed a bill to allow gay marriage, putting the state one step closer to joining the rest of New England in legal recognition of same-sex couples.

But observers on both sides of the issue said that the ultimate fate of the legislation was hard to call.

The bill passed the House 51-19, but it faces a much more difficult battle in the state Senate, supporters and opponents said.

For Ken Fish, 70, who showed up early to get a seat in the Statehouse, Thursday's vote was personal. The Warwick resident told The Associated Press that he and his partner of 25 years have long awaited legal sanction for their partnership. Thursday's vote is "history in the making," Fish said.