A bill which would legalize civil unions for gay and lesbian couples cleared a final Colorado House panel on Tuesday but time is running out for a final House vote.

With the help of a lone Republican, Representative Cheri Gerou, the committee's vice chair, the measure cleared the 13-member House Appropriations Committee with a 7-6 vote.

“I have been at this place before I knew everybody in this room,” Gerou said, a reference to her long-time support of gay rights.

But the bill did not escape the panel unscathed. Two religious exemptions amendments offered by Republican Rep. Marsha Looper were approved by members, setting up a new hurdle for the measure to overcome.

With Wednesday being the last day of the legislative session, the bill must be debated tonight and voted on tomorrow. Also, if those amendments cannot be stripped off in the House, then the measure would die as the clock runs out before the Senate could act on those changes. The measure easily cleared the Senate late last month.

Democrats fear Republican House leaders will simply run down the clock. Speaker Frank McNulty and House Majority Leader Amy Stephens oppose civil unions.

At least five GOP House members have indicated support for the measure. Republicans enjoy a 33-32 majority.

Democratic Rep. Mark Ferrandino decided to sponsor the civil unions bill in the House after a Republican sponsor could not be found.

If approved, Colorado would become the sixth state to legalize civil unions for gay couples, behind Illinois, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Delaware and Hawaii.