Gay marriage faces its biggest test yet in Rhode Island as the state's House of Representatives prepares to vote on legislation Thursday that would allow gay and lesbian couples to marry in the only New England state where they can't.

Supporters and opponents of the bill expect it to easily pass the House, led by House Speaker Gordon Fox, who is gay. Both sides say the true test of the legislation lies ahead in the Senate, where Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed opposes the legislation.

Gay marriage legislation has been introduced every year in the General Assembly since 1997, but Thursday's vote will mark the first time it has been debated and gone to a vote on the House or Senate floor.