The state Senate Republican Caucus in Rhode Island unanimously endorsed Senate Bill 38, a measure that would legalize gay marriage in the state, Think Progress reported on Tuesday.

Rhode Island state Sens. Dawson Hodgson (R-North Kingstown), Nicholas Kettle (R-Coventry), Dennis Algiere (R-Westerly), Chris Ottiano (R-Portsmouth) and David Bates (R-Barrington), the only Republicans in the chamber, released a joint statement announcing their endorsement.

"We support Senate Bill 38 because it rightfully extends the civil aspects of marriage to all Rhode Islanders while protecting the freedom of religion our state was founded upon," the letter reads. "Gay and lesbian couples deserve to be treated equally under the law, and at the same time churches, synagogues and mosques in our state must be free to exercise their faith and their sacraments as they see fit. This bill strikes the right balance and should be passed by the Senate."

The Rhode Island Senate Judiciary Committee is set to vote on the marriage equality legislation on Tuesday. According to the Associated Press, the committee is also reviewing separate legislation that would put marriage equality before voters in next year's election. The committee could advance either bill, or both.

State Sen. Donna Nesselbush (D-Pawtucket), who is gay and also the lead sponsor of SB 38, told the AP that she still had some doubts, but believed the measure could pass.

"We're not there yet, but I do believe a majority of senators support granting civil rights to gay people," she said.

UPDATE: 3:45 p.m. -- The state Senate Judiciary Committee voted 7-4 on Tuesday to forward the marriage equality bill to the Senate floor. Legislators are expected to take up the issue on Wednesday.

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