The fight to legalize same-sex marriage in Minnesota is about to get a new twist at the Capitol as a group of legislators unveil a proposal to allow civil unions for gay and lesbian couples.

Republican state Rep. Tim Kelly is scheduled to offer the proposal Wednesday afternoon, touching off what is likely to be a fresh round of debate over who should be allowed to marry.

Minnesota legislators are considering a proposal to legalize same-sex marriage, an issue that has gripped the state for nearly two years. A final vote is expected later this month or early in May. Polls shows that most Minnesotans do not favor same-sex marriage, but gay and lesbian advocates say this is a civil rights issue that needs to be addressed.

Many gay and lesbians have refused to embrace civil unions, saying they are inferior to marriage. But the legal protections that come with civil unions are viewed as a compromise among many who want gay and lesbian couples to have some recognition, just not marriage.

Legislators in Colorado, which has a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, just passed a measure allowing civil unions in that state.

Kelly, of Red Wing, could not immediately be reached for comment, but he gained national attention a couple years ago when he broke with the party and refused to approve a proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage.