The Rhode Island House on Thursday approved a bill that would recognize gay and lesbian couples with civil unions, The Providence Journal reported.

After a House panel approved the measure with a 9-3 vote on Tuesday, the full chamber agreed with a 62-11 vote, sending the controversial measure, sponsored by Democratic Representative Peter Petrarca, to the Senate for final approval.

Petrarca offered his bill after House Speaker Gordon Fox, who is gay and backs marriage equality, announced that a gay marriage proposal sponsored by Democratic Representative Arthur Handy has “no realistic chance” of being approved in the General Assembly this session.

“I am very proud of my colleagues in the House of Representatives for recognizing that this is the right piece of legislation at the right time,” Petrarca said. “This bill is a step forward to ensuring equality and improving their quality of life.”

House members considered, but ultimately rejected, three amendments.

Democratic Representative Arthur Corvese's amendment would have added language to the bill declaring that marriage is “between one man and one woman.”

Handy introduced an amendment that would transform the civil unions bill into a gay marriage bill. Fox said it violated a House rule that forbids an amendment from making such drastic modifications.

A third amendment that would have put the issue on the ballot was voted down by members.

If approved, Rhode Island would become the fourth state after New Jersey, Hawaii and Illinois to offer such unions.