In a historic day for the US state of Colorado, Governor John Hickenlooper signed civil unions into law on Thursday, following several attempts to pass the legislation in recent years.

The law takes effect on 1 May, and will make Colorado the eighth state to legalise same-sex civil unions.

Brad Clark, executive director of LGBT rights advocacy group One Colorado said: “This historic victory belongs to the thousands of loving, committed couples across the state who have worked tirelessly for years to make it possible for their families … to have these important legal safeguards… For them, this moment was long overdue.”

In its third reading, the Colorado House of Representatives last week approved the legislation. The SB-11, Colorado Civil Union Act, passed 39 votes to 26, on Monday with all Democratic House members voting for it, as well as two Republicans.

During the debate, Republicans attempted to push forward amendments that would have allowed child adoption agencies and religious people the right to deny services to same-sex couples.

The bill passed what was the Senate’s final vote on the SB-11, Colorado Civil Union Act, 21 votes to 14 on the 11th of February.

The bill was co-sponsored by Democratic House Speaker Mark Ferrandino, the first openly gay lawmaker to hold the title in the state.

“While I have the honor of being the Speaker of the House, my family doesn’t have equality under the law,” he said.

The House speaker said the bill was about love, and families. He said: ”This wasn’t a choice. This is who I am,” Ferrandino said, of being gay.

The bill would allow gay and lesbian couples similar rights to marriage, which includes inheritance and parental rights, as well as the ability to make medical decisions on behalf of their partners.

Democrats in the state have attempted to pass legislation to introduce civil unions for years.