Rhode Island’s House of Representatives has this evening overwhelmingly passed a same-sex marriage equality bill.

The final vote was 51 in favour and 19 against.

“Society is changing and I believe this world can be difficult to go through,” Democrat Majority Leader Nicholas Mattiello said. “And what do we need? We need relationships.”

The decision comes after Rhode Island’s Governor was criticised by opponents for saying that equal marriage legislation should be decided on by lawmakers rather than voted on by the public.

On Tuesday, the House Judiciary Committee unanimously approved a bill to change the law.
The debate will now head to the state Senate where a contentious battle is anticipated to unfold with a number of senior lawmakers adamantly opposed to equality for same-sex couples.

Nine US states have already decided to legalise same-sex marriage, beginning with Maine and Maryland in November of 2012. Illinois has plans to vote on the topic later this year.