The Rhode Island Senate on Wednesday approved a gay marriage bill, making the nation's smallest state the tenth to legalize such unions.

Senators approved the measure with a 26-12 vote after debating the issue for roughly 1 hour.

The move comes a day after the Senate Judiciary Committee approved the bill with a 7-4 vote and rejected a second related bill which sought to allow voters to decide the issue. The House overwhelmingly approved the measure in January.

Democratic Senator Donna Nesselbush, the bill's champion in the chamber, thanked all members of the Rhode Island General Assembly who had pushed the bill forward over the years.

“Today's vote's culminates nearly a half century of struggle by the gay community,” Nesselbush told colleagues, adding that she was “deeply grateful” to have the unanimous support of the chamber's Republican caucus.

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

“On this historic day,” she said, “I move passage of this historic legislation.”

An amendment to the bill which sought to let voters decide the issue offered by Democratic Senator Frank A. Ciccone was rejected with a 28-10 vote.

Speaking on the marriage bill, Democratic Senator Gayle Goldin said she wants “to raise my children in a state that treats people equally and with respect. I want my kinds to know that they and their friends will have the same rights … regardless of sexual orientation.”

Republican Senator Dawson Hodgson said he was proud “to be part of a GOP caucus that has unanimously endorsed legal equality in our marriage laws.”

The bill must return to the House for a largely procedural vote before heading to the desk of independent Governor Lincoln Chafee, an outspoken supporter of marriage equality.