A bill which would legalize gay marriage in Colombia has cleared its first hurdle in the Senate.

With a 10-5 vote, the First Committee (Comision Primera) has approved Senator Armando Benedetti's proposed measure. Benedetti's proposal originally sought to create civil unions for gay and lesbian couples. He has since altered the language to marriage. However, Benedetti's bill would not give married gay couples the right to adopt children.

Tuesday's vote is the first of four needed for the measure to become law.

β€œIn this country homosexuals already have economic rights and social security, therefore it is time to move toward matrimony,” Benedetti is quoted as saying by El Espectador.

Last year, Colombia's Constitution Court upheld marriage as a heterosexual union but gave lawmakers an ultimatum: recognize gay unions before July 20, 2013 or we'll do it for you.

According to the order, if Congress fails to act, then β€œgay couples can go to a notary and with the same solemnity of a heterosexual marriage enter a union similar to one between a heterosexual couple,” said Judge Juan Carlos Henao, the court's president.

In response, lawmakers have introduced several competing bills.