A bill that would give gay and lesbian couples many of the benefits and responsibilities of marriage has cleared a third and final committee in the Colorado Senate.

Lawmakers in the Senate Appropriations Committee approved the civil unions measure with a 6-4 party-line vote.

The bill now heads to the Democrat-controlled Senate, where all 20 Democratic members have co-sponsored the proposed legislation.

Openly gay state Senator Pat Steadman introduced his gay-inclusive civil unions bill on Valentine's Day.

Democratic Representative Mark Ferrandino is expected to carry the measure in the House.

Ferrandino has claimed there is Republican support for the measure in the GOP-controlled House. But whether the measure reaches the House floor remains to be seen. Supporters worry that House Speaker Frank McNulty, a Highlands Ranch Republican, will assign the bill to a hostile committee, thereby killing it.

Opposition to the measure has come mostly from the Roman Catholic Church.

In a letter to Colorado Catholics, Rev. Charles J. Chaput, the Archbishop of Denver, said the bill “undermines the privileged place of marriage and the family.”

“Marriage and the family are cornerstones of any culture – Christian or not. They ensure the future through the creation of new human life. Any diminishment of the identity of marriage and the family undermines society itself.”

At a Senate committee hearing, Rosina Kovar, a grandmother and an “at-large-director” for the Missouri-based Eagle Forum, Phyllis Schlafly's socially conservative group, told lawmakers that she opposed the proposal because the anus is weak.

David Digiacomo testified that such legislation would have it made it more difficult for him to escape his abusive relationships with men.

“The few times I was in a domestic relationship, they became abusive,” Digiacomo told lawmakers. “If I had been in a civil union it would have taken a lawyer and plenty of money to get out of one of those relationships.” (The video is embedded in the right panel of this page.)

Colorado would become the fourth state to offer the union behind New Jersey, Illinois and Hawaii, if lawmakers approve the bill.