After approval by the Colorado Senate, a civil unions bill that would give gay and lesbian couples many of the benefits of marriage has been assigned to an hostile committee in the House.

The bill was assigned to the Judiciary Committee by House Speaker Frank McNulty on Friday.

“It's probably one of the most difficult committees to get it out of, and I think the speaker knows that,” said Representative Mark Ferrandino, the bill's sponsor in the House. “I'm not surprised. It went to judiciary in the Senate, so it's hard to call it a committee that doesn't have jurisdiction over it, but I think [McNulty] knows it's the most likely committee he could send it to and kill it.”

McNulty said the committee assignment was the most appropriate and promised a fair hearing.

The Republican-controlled committee's leadership is opposed to the proposed measure.

Chairman Bob Gardner is on record as opposing civil unions, while Vice Chairman Mark Barker told the Denver Post that he's a Southern Baptist when asked if he supports the bill.

The measure needs the support of at least one Republican to reach the House floor – if the committee's Democrats unite in favor of the bill.

“I'm not fatalistic,” Ferrandino told The Pueblo Chieftain. “I'm still holding out hope and will continue to work to try to get it done.”

The bill won passage in the Senate on Thursday with the help of three Republicans.

Three states – Illinois, Hawaii and New Jersey – currently offer civil unions. A similar bill was introduced in Delaware on Tuesday.