A bill to grant gay and lesbian couples in Illinois, US, the right to civil unions will proceed to the House floor for a vote.

House bill 2234 was approved by the House Youth and Family Committee by a vote of 5-4 Wednesday.

It was introduced by state representative Greg Harris, an openly gay Democrat from Springfield, along with 12 Democratic co-sponsors.

A similar law for civil unions made it out of committee two years ago, but never got a final vote in the Illinois house.

The bill will not legalise marriage for same-sex couples.

However, it will provide them with a separate legal framework that offers many marriage-like benefits for gay couples, such as the right to visit their partners in hospitals and make medical decisions.

The bill would also recognise legal gay marriages and civil unions performed elsewhere as civil unions.

Rick Garcia, director of public policy at Equality Illinois, said: “We are gratified that the members of the committee understand the importance of recognizing and extending legal protections to Illinois same-sex couples and their families.

“These couples make our communities stronger and deserve to have the same protections and benefits as their heterosexual counterparts.”