ROME, MARCH 3, 2009 ( A Montana state Senate decision to abolish the death penalty was marked in Rome on Monday -- the Colosseum was lit up to celebrate another step toward the end of capital punishment.

The Senate's decision last month still has to pass through the state's House of Representatives and be signed by the governor to become law, but the Community of Sant'Egidio celebrated the 27-23 vote as a victory.

At the initiative of that Catholic lay community, the ancient Roman site for killing Christians is set alight whenever a death sentence is commuted or a government moves toward abolishing the punishment.

If Montana abolishes the death penalty, it will be the third state to stop the procedure, following New York and New Jersey.

"The historic vote in the Montana Senate is a clear sign that public opinion in the United States is tending toward the abolition of capital punishment," a statement from the Sant'Egidio Community affirmed.

Last week, those same Montana legislators acted as the first U.S. state senate to approve a personhood amendment. Like the death penalty ruling, the amendment has to pass the House of Representatives and be signed by the governor. But pro-lifers are lauding the vote as a key accomplishment.

The bill defines persons as "a human being at all stages of human development of life, including the state of fertilization or conception, regardless of age, health, level of functioning, or condition of dependency."