The Chilean Senate on Wednesday approved a bill which seeks to recognize gay and lesbian couples with civil unions, less than a week after it cleared the House of Representatives.

President Michelle Bachelet, who endorsed marriage equality during her campaign, is expected to sign the bill into law.

According to CNN Chile, the measure cleared the chamber with a 25-6 vote, with 3 abstentions.

“The civil union is a fundamental institution for those couples that live together without being married,” Government Secretary Alvaro Elizalde said. “It is a judicial tool that does not discriminate, and applied to all types of couples. Most importantly, it allows us to recognize different family types and protect them all.”

Rolando Jimenez, president of the LGBT rights group Movilh, applauded passage: “There's been a profound cultural change in Chilean society which is reflected in [the fact that] a majority of people disapprove of discrimination based on someone's sexual orientation or their gender identity.”

The bill was first introduced in 2011 by former President Sebastián Piñera, but went nowhere until Bachelet took over. Lawmakers rallied behind civil unions in an attempt to cut off an expected marriage debate. During a CNN Chile appearance, Senator Ivan Moreira (UDI) called civil unions a “lesser evil.”

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.