A New Hampshire panel on Wednesday okayed a bill that would repeal the state's 18-month-old gay marriage law, the Union Leader reported.

A subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee voted 3-1 in favor of HB 437 after removing some of its bite.

The original form of the bill repealed the gay marriage law and outlawed civil unions. The bill's new language would allow both gay couples and heterosexual couples to enter a civil union.

If approved, the bill would not effect the marriages of gay and lesbian couples who have already tied the knot, but would stop new couples from marrying.

In March, the House Judiciary Committee voted unanimously to hold off on the legislation until the following legislative session. Republican leaders had urged the committee to shelve the bills, insisting social issues must take a back seat to the state's fiscal crisis.

The move came after the committee held a public hearing on the issue in which a majority of the six hundred people in attendance said they were opposed to repeal of the law, which went into effect on January 1, 2010.

At the hearing, opponents of the law testified that they fear the institution because it would lead to disease and polygamy.

The law was signed by Democratic Governor John Lynch, who has vowed to veto any repeal attempt. Republicans, however, gained veto-proof majorities in both chambers during last year's general election.

The National Organization for Marriage (NOM), the nation's most vociferous opponent of gay marriage, worked against Lynch's reelection, arguing that he lied to constituents in 2006 when he said he opposed marriage equality.