A bill which seeks to recognize the relationships of gay and lesbian couples with civil unions cleared its first hurdle in the Colorado General Assembly on Wednesday.

The Senate Judiciary Committee approved Senate Bill 11 on a 3-2 party-line vote, The Denver Post reported.

Senator Lucia Guzman, an openly gay Democrat from Denver, said the vote has been “years in the making.”

“There are those here today who spent years hiding, hiding the truth from their parents, friends, bosses, even hiding from themselves,” she said.

Christian conservative groups which oppose the measure, such as the Alliance Defending Freedom and CitizenLink, the political arm of Focus on the Family, said the measure threatened religious freedom.

Carrie Gordon Earll with CitizenLink warned that the ultimate goal for Democrats is extending marriage rights to gay and lesbian couples.

However, a constitutional amendment approved by voters in 2006 limits marriage to heterosexual couples.

With Democrats in control of both chambers and Governor John Hickenlooper a supporter, passage appears nearly assured.

The bill now heads to the Appropriations Committee.

If the bill is approved, Colorado would join 5 other states – Delaware, Illinois, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Hawaii – which offer the union.