The Senate in Chile has overwhelmingly approved a bill which seeks to recognize the relationships of gay and lesbian couples.

The legislation, first introduced in 2011 by President Sebastian Pinera, made its way to the Senate floor on Tuesday. According to the Santiago Times, Senators approved the measure with a 28-6 vote and two abstentions.

Pinera's bill would allow gay and straight couples who have lived together for more than one year to enter a legal contract called the Life Partner Agreement (Acuerdo de Vida en Pareja).

Gay rights activists cheered at Pinera's 2011 signing ceremony but angry leaders of his center-right coalition refused to attend the ceremony in protest.

The measure's sudden change of fortune comes less than a month after Michelle Bachelet, who campaigned for full marriage rights for gay couples, was elected president. Bachelet, who led the nation from 2006 to 2010, returns as president in March.

Gay rights group Movilh cheered passage in the Senate, saying it remains skeptical that Bachelet can deliver on her promise of marriage.

“When Michelle Bachelet was last president, she promised three things regarding sexual equality, none of which her administration delivered,” Movilh spokesman Oscar Rementeria told The Santiago Times. “As such, we cannot have complete confidence that she is going to deliver what she promises this time around.”

The bill now heads to a constitutional committee. A second reading in the Senate could happen as early as January 20.

According to CNN Chile, more than 2 million couples could benefit from the legislation.