The Liberian senate is reported to have approved a bill criminalising gay marriages in the west African state, but it is unclear whether the president would sign it into law.

Bong County Senior Senator Jewel Howard Taylor, wife of the former president Charles Taylor, sponsored the bill which must now go to the House of Representatives before the question of a veto by president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

Former first lady Senator Taylor said the law would not be anti-gay “because there are people who are homosexual that continue to do whatever they want to do”.

She told AFP: “My Bill seeks to ensure that people of the same sex under our law should not be allowed to get married.”

A number of reports have come from Liberia about anti-gay laws under consideration. It is understood this bill would clarify that marriages between two people of the same gender are illegal in Liberia.

It would further make them criminal and punishable by fines or imprisonment.

Senator Joseph Nagbe of Sinoe County read out the amendment to the Domestic Relations Law which would make gay marriages a second-degree felony.

He said it was not unconstitutional and, according to All Africa, advised gay people visiting Liberia to “stay away from each other until your departure”.

The crime of “voluntary sodomy” is punishable by up to a year’s imprisonment in Liberia, although it is not known when the law was last used to prosecute someone.

Earlier this year, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf told the Guardian she would not consider repealing the laws criminalising homosexual acts in her country, saying: “We’ve got certain traditional values in our society that we would like to preserve.”

She added: “We like ourselves just the way we are.”

The president subsequently said she would veto any “extremist legislation” that would marginalise people on account of their sexual orientation. She said she would “never condone discrimination against any group”.