A bill legalizing gay marriage passed the first of four votes amid criticism from conservative groups. The bill was was approved on Tuesday (4 November) by 10 votes against five senators of the first committee of the Senate responsible for constitutional matters, reported the portal Univision. The bill will now face a vote in the Colombian Senate however no date was yet set for a debate and vote. Senator Armando Benedetti, of the ruling Social Party of National Unity party said: ‘The marriage of couples of same-sex couples is a clear manifestation of respect and non-discrimination of groups that have been permanently marginalized. ‘With this initiative we seek to bridge the gap of inequality and respect the provisions of the constitution and the rulings of the constitutional court’. Last year (26 July 2011) Colombia’s constitutional court set a deadline for lawmakers to act on the issue. The court ruled that the Colombian Congress must create an equivalent of marriage for gay couples by June 20, 2013, or else couples will automatically gain the right to go to any judge or notary public to formalize their union.