The Colombia Senate on Wednesday rejected a proposal to legalize gay marriage in the nation.

Fifty-one out of 102 senators voted against the measure, with 17 in favor.

The defeat, however, was widely expected.

Last week, conservative party La U announced that it had sufficient votes to snuff out the bill. Senator Armando Benedetti, the bill's sponsor, said after the announcement that he held out hope the bill would pass.

Outside the chamber, hundreds of supporters and opponents rallied in Plaza de Bolivar – much like they did last week and again on Tuesday before Senate leaders decided to postpone the final vote. Supporters hung a 2-story banner which read “Igualdad Para Todos” (Equality For All) from a building which borders the plaza.

The debate was marred by anti-gay rhetoric, including claims by Senate President Roy Barreras that passage of the measure would result in children being recruited. Other speakers argued that marriage equality would hurt heterosexual marriages and that it would lead to increasing incidence of anal cancer in Colombia.

“Marriage as an institution, as a sacrament, implies a union between a man and a woman with the idea of procreating,” said Senator Carlos Ramiro Chavarro, a member of the Conservative Party.

The comments angered Benedetti.

“They have always said that this project goes against nature, that it goes against the foundation of society and against God's law,” Benedetti is quoted as saying on Monday by Reuters. “Those who vote against this project … would have voted in favor of slavery.”

Lawmakers are working under a court-imposed deadline of June 20. The Constitutional Court in 2011 ordered Congress to approve a law recognizing the unions of gay and lesbian couples. It ruled that if Congress failed to act, then notaries could begin issuing civil unions. However, it is unclear whether the nation's notaries will act without passage of a law.