A bill which would recognize gay and lesbian couples with civil unions cleared a Colorado Senate panel on Wednesday after lawmakers heard hours of emotional testimony.

One Republican senator joined all Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee to approve the measure with a 5-2 vote.

The bill is supported by Democratic Governor John Hickenlooper, who called on lawmakers to approve the legislation during his annual State of the State speech last month.

The measure would give gay couples all the protections of marriage. Lawmakers are barred from pursuing marriage for gay couples due to a 2006 voter-approved constitutional amendment which defines marriage as a heterosexual union.

Republican Senator Kevin Lundberg, an opponent of the bill, described civil unions as a “legal jiu-jitsu to simply get around the term.”

Lundberg suggested that the bill's passage would encourage supporters to press on for full marriage.

“I can tell you Senator Lundberg that if this bill passes, I will avail myself of it,” responded Democratic Senator Pat Steadman, the bill's openly gay sponsor. “I am a member of the class of unmarried persons who are eligible for this relationship, and it is one that I would seek. Beyond that, I cannot predict. The arc of history is one that bends toward justice.”

Steadman's bill cleared the Senate last year before it died in a Republican-controlled House committee on a party-line vote.