Speaker Gordon Fox, who is gay and was a leading supporter of the bill, said it's clear the bill won't pass the General Assembly. Fox, a Democrat from Providence, said he'll instead sponsor civil union legislation giving same-sex couples the same state rights as married couples.
Wednesday's announcement dealt a major setback to gay marriage advocates in the state. Marriage Equality Rhode Island chairwoman Martha Holt called civil unions a half-measure and said her group would oppose any legislation that doesn't extend full marriage rights.
Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed's opposition was a key obstacle to gay marriage legislation. The Democrat from Newport said she supports civil union legislation and believes it will pass.
Gov. Lincoln Chafee, an independent, said civil unions would be a step forward but he would prefer a gay marriage law.
New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut, Iowa and Massachusetts and the District of Columbia have approved gay marriage laws.