A Minnesota Senate committee on Friday approved a resolution that seeks to constitutionally ban gay marriage in the state, the Minnesota Independent reported.

After hearing more than 3 hours worth of testimony, the Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety approved Republican Senator Warren Limmer's amendment on an 8 to 4 party-line vote. The measure now heads to the 11-member Senate Rules and Administration Committee.

If approved, voters would be asked in 2012 to decide on the definition of marriage. Minnesota state law already outlaws gay and lesbian couples from marrying.

This year's resolution pares down previous amendments which sought to outlaw marriage and other legal equivalents, such as civil unions, for gay and lesbian couples. The omission leaves open the possibility that future lawmakers could recognize the unions of gay couples, but not with marriage.

Committee Chairman Limmer said only the state's voters could decide on the definition of marriage: “I can't imagine anything more unacceptable than to allow a small group of politicians or perhaps even a smaller number of judges to define marriage rather than the people of Minnesota.”

Senator Barb Goodwin, a Democrat, pleaded with lawmakers to reverse course.

“I could not live with myself, and those of you who claim to be good Christians, you need to think about what you are doing here,” she said.

Republicans won control of both chambers of the Legislature on November 2, dashing the hopes of gay marriage supporters who believed the state was poised to become the sixth in the nation to legalize the institution.

While Democratic Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton has pledged his support for gay marriage, his OK isn't needed to place the question on the ballot.

In January, the Christian conservative group Minnesota Family Council pledged to spend $4.71 million over the next two years to see the measure adopted.

The House Civil Law Committee is scheduled to hold a Monday hearing on a companion bill.