A bill that would make the definition of marriage in California gender neutral has been approved by the State Senate.

It passed on a 25-10 vote after being sent to the Assembly.

On Thursday, the only senator to speak in opposition, Republican Jim Nielsen said: “I cannot bring myself to diminish the words ‘husband and wife’, and this clearly does that. They’re kind of scared terms, I would argue, and this bill diminishes those very important words.”

The bill would remove that marriage must be “between a man and a woman” from the state Family Code.

Instead, gender-neutral language would be used, defining marriage as a personal relation emerging from a civil contract between two persons.

The bill would also remove limits on the state recognising the validity of same-sex marriages performed outside of California

The US Supreme Court struck down Proposition 8, California’s ban on same-sex marriages, last summer.