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That could change when Vermont’s legislature convenes later this month. The Six by Twelve campaign’s best bet for a quick victory lies in Montpelier, where lawmakers are already planning to introduce same-sex marriage legislation.

A similar bill was introduced last year, but legislators elected instead to form a commission to study the issue. The panel held hearings throughout the state, where people testifying in favor of same-sex marriage routinely outnumbered opponents. The commission ultimately issued a report supporting gay marriage while stopping short of recommending it. Still, the issue’s advocates say the panel helped lay the groundwork for this year’s debate.

“A lot of legislators were nervous about this issue, so we saw this as an opportunity to educate Vermonters in rural areas and also in the cities,” said Beth Robinson, chairwoman of Vermont Freedom to Marry. “This session, we’re not looking for an alternative to moving it [a bill] to the floor. We’re asking them to do the right thing now.”

The bill could run into trouble with Gov. Jim Douglas, a Republican who doesn’t support same-sex marriage, according to his spokesman.

“He believes our civil-union law provides equality in same-sex relationships,” spokesman Steve Wark said.

However, the governor, who won re-election handily in November, has never said that he would veto a bill, leaving same-sex marriage advocates with a sliver of hope.

“Given that he’s a red governor in a blue state, he’s managed to do that by being fair-minded,” Ms. Robinson said. “Our own belief is that he’ll do the right thing.”