Governor Jim Douglas has announced his intention to veto the gay marriage bill if it passes the Legislature.

At a news conference yesterday, the Republican governor said that the state’s current civil partnership provision gave gay couples adequate rights and added that marriage should “remain between a man and a woman”.

“For those reasons and because I believe that by removing any uncertainty about my position we can move more quickly beyond this debate, I am announcing that I intend to veto this legislation when it reaches my desk,” he said.

The bill passed the Senate on a voice vote on Tuesday after winning preliminary approval there by a 26-4 roll call vote a day earlier. It is expected to come before the full House for a vote at the end of next week.

If the bill is approved, Vermont will join Massachusetts and Connecticut as the only US states that allow gay marriage.

Civil unions in Vermont were legalised in 2000 but offered only some of the benefits available to straight married couples.

The new bill will grant gay and lesbian couples access to Social Security benefits available to straight married couples. They would also be able to claim joint health insurance and make emergency medical decisions.