The state Senate (search) approved legislation Thursday that would legalize same-sex marriages, a vote that makes the chamber the first legislative body in the country to approve a gay marriage bill.

The 21-15 vote sets the stage for a showdown in the state Assembly (search), which narrowly rejected a gay marriage bill in June.

"Equality is equality, period," said one of the bill's supporters, Democratic Sen. Liz Figueroa (search). "When I leave this Legislature I want to be able to tell my grandchildren I stood up for dignity and rights for all."

Sen. Dennis Hollingsworth, a Republican, said the bill was not the right thing to do. "We should protect traditional marriage and hold all of those values and institutions that have made our society and keep our society together today," he said.

Same-sex marriages are legal in only one state, Massachusetts, under a 2003 court ruling.