NEW HAVEN, Conn. – Connecticut is set to become the latest state to allow immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses regardless of their legal status, a move that could affect tens of thousands of drivers and came after an interfaith coalition was credited with playing a key role in urging lawmakers to pass the law.

Immigrants would be able to get driver’s licenses beginning in January 2015 in the bill, which passed 19-16 Thursday along party lines in the Senate. It passed the House of Representatives last week and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy is expected to sign it.

“This bill is first and foremost about public safety,” Malloy said. “It’s about knowing who is driving on our roads, and doing everything we can to make sure those drivers are safe and that they’re operating registered, insured vehicles.”

Applicants would need documentation proving their identities and showing they have lived in the state for at least 90 days. They also would have to pass driving tests and background checks verifying they have no felony convictions in the state.

The licenses would be marked “for driving purposes only” and would need to be renewed every three years, rather than the standard six years.

Proponents said the measure could affect about 54,000 drivers. Connecticut is among several states to pass similar legislation this year.

Sen. Andrew Maynard, a Stonington Democrat and co-chairman of the transportation committee who sponsored the bill, credited an interfaith coalition known as Congregations Organized for a New Connecticut, or Conect, with helping win passage of the bill. He said the group, composed of 28 churches, synagogues and mosques, put a human face on the issue by arranging face to face meetings with lawmakers and those affected by the measure.

“They played an instrumental role,” Maynard said. “I think it was their unrelenting advocacy here at the capital that turned what would have been the third year of sort of being told to wait into a real turning of the tide.”

The Rev. James Manship, co-chairman of Conect, said drivers who couldn’t get licenses because of their immigration status lived in fear of being pulled over, taken in by police and having their cars towed. The group also pointed to the risk of legal drivers getting hit by unlicensed, uninsured drivers.

“I think it’s a step in the right direction for Connecticut, for public safety for driving and I think it gives a good signal that Connecticut joins other states that have passed similar legislation and sends a strong signal to Congress that states are having to deal with their inability to act on a comprehensive immigration reform,” Manship said.

Several Republicans voiced opposition, saying people who are living in the country illegally should not get legal documents. They also cited a Quinnipiac University poll in March that found 65 percent of respondents opposed the move.

Senate Majority Leader Martin M. Looney, D-New Haven, said reliable transportation is a necessity.

“The need to earn a living does not vanish just because a person does not have the appropriate immigration credentials,” he said. “Most undocumented immigrants would like to operate vehicles within the law.”