The Colorado House on Tuesday approved a bill which recognizes gay and lesbian couples with civil unions.

The 39-26 vote followed a lengthy and at times emotional debate which took place on Monday.

House Speaker Mark Ferrandino, a Democrat, has championed civil unions in the House for the last three legislative sessions. This year, a second openly gay Democrat, Rep. Sue Schafer, joined Ferrandino in co-sponsoring the bill.

“We should make laws that are equal for everyone and respect us all,” Ferrandino told colleagues before the vote.

Democrats on Monday fended off amendments aimed at weakening the measure advanced by Republicans. One amendment called for a public vote on the issue, while a second sought to restore exemptions for child placement agencies omitted from last year's bill.

GOP opposition was led by Rep. Bob Gardner of Colorado Springs, home of the Christian conservative Focus on the Family.

The Denver Post reported that two Republicans, Cheri Gerou of Evergreen and Carole Murray of Castle Rock, spoke in favor of the measure.

The bill now heads to the desk of Democratic Governor John Hickenlooper, a strong supporter of civil unions.