The Chilean House of Representatives on Tuesday approved a bill which seeks to recognize gay and lesbian couples with civil unions.

According to Chilean daily La Tercera, the measure cleared the chamber with an 86-23 vote.

The Chilean Senate last October approved the measure first introduced by former President Sebastián Piñera in 2011.

Amendments made in the House means the bill must return to the Senate, which is expected to approve the measure.

While Piñera's bill went nowhere under his administration, it gained momentum after last year's election of President Michelle Bachelet, who endorsed marriage equality during her campaign. Lawmakers rallied behind civil unions in an attempt to cut off a marriage debate. For example, Senator Ivan Moreira (UDI) called civil unions a “lesser evil” during a CNN Chile appearance.

Last month, Congressman Gabriel Silber Romo introduced a bill which seeks to make Chile the fourth South American nation after Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina to legalize marriage for gay couples. In introducing his bill, Silber said that securing final approval in parliament of civil unions legislation remained a priority.

Rolando Jiménez, president of the gay rights group Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation (MOVILH), applauded Tuesday's vote.

“We dedicate this day, this moment, to the gay and lesbian families that have suffered a historic burden of misunderstanding and prejudices,” Jiménez said in a statement. “Today it will be the state's turn to strengthen them and protect them on equal terms.”