A Rhode Island Senate panel on Tuesday approved a gay marriage bill, sending it to the full Senate where it will face its final legislative hurdle.

The Senate Judiciary Committee approved the bill with a 7-4 vote after brief remarks from Senator Donna Nesselbush, the bill's champion in the Senate.

“In the early 1980s, I marched in my first gay pride parade,” Nesselbush told colleagues. “And today, some 30 years later, I am honored to be the lead sponsor of the marriage equality bill.”

With a 6-5 vote, the committee also rejected a bill sponsored by Senator Frank A. Ciccone, a Democrat, which sought to allow voters to decide the issue.

The historic vote came after the panel held a grueling 12-hour hearing on the bills last month.

A marriage bill has been introduced every year since 1997 in Rhode Island, the only New England state which does not allow gay and lesbian couples to marry. Two years ago, lawmakers approved civil unions for gay couples.

Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed, an opponent of marriage equality, previously pledged to bring the marriage bill to the floor as soon as it emerges from the committee.

(Related: Unanimous Republican support for gay marriage in Rhode Island Senate.)

UPDATE: The Senate has announced it will debate the bill on Wednesday.