New Hampshire is just one vote away from passing a gay marriage bill – again.

Senators this morning approved a compromised gay marriage bill that includes the religious protections sought by Governor John Lynch. The 14 to 10 vote went down along party lines with all Democrats in support and all Republicans in opposition.

But the real fight will come later today when the House of Representatives takes up the issue.

Last month legislators unexpectedly passed a gay marriage bill, but Lynch remained coy about whether he would withhold his signature. House members narrowly approved the measure and Senators dismissed the recommendation of its Judiciary Committee, passing the measure on a 13 to 11 vote.

Lynch agreed to go along on the condition that legislators codify religious exceptions for churches and their workers. Opponents howled, calling the governor a turncoat; they said he had broken his promise to protect marriage. Lynch, a Democrat, had previously said he believes marriage was between a man and a woman.

Senators approved the changes two weeks ago but House members balked, defeating the bill along a thin 188 to 186 vote. But House lawmakers also refused to kill the gay marriage bill for the session, deciding instead to call on the Senate for a new compromise on the religious exceptions.

The House loss was a terrible blow to advocates who had been celebrating with recent wins in Iowa, Vermont and Maine. While advocates remained dazed, opponents took credit for the upset.

“Of course it didn't just happen,” Maggie Gallagher, president of the National Organization for Marriage, wrote at the National Review blog. “We've figured out how to go over the heads of the media directly to the people on the marriage issue – even in New England. Some enterprising reporter may just ask how?”

But how is no secret. The convolutions of gay marriage in the House leave little doubt that the chamber is deeply divided on the issue. Passage in the House then boils down to who shows up for the vote.

Two years ago, lawmakers in the state approved civil unions for gay and lesbian couples. Both the civil union and gay marriage bill were introduced by openly gay Representative Jim Splaine, a Democrat.

“The recent public discussion on the issue has shown that marriage is more than a legal right,” said Mo Baxley, the executive director of the New Hampshire Freedom to Marry Coalition, in a statement. “Civil unions require unfair treatment in an unequal institution, and they diminish liberty and freedom for all Granite Staters. It's clear that a majority of people in New Hampshire know that it's time for our legislators to act on this issue.”

Proponents will continue their push throughout the day, lobbying undecided House members and, if passed, urging the governor to sign the bill into law.

Several hundred advocates rallied in support of the bill at the Statehouse this morning.