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Colorado Civil Unions Pass First Senate Vote

By Sunnivie Brydum

In a preliminary voice vote today, the Colorado state Senate approved Senate Bill 11, an act to create civil unions to provide same-sex couples many of the rights afforded by marriage. The Senate is scheduled to hold a full and final vote on the legislation's third reading Monday. 

Republican senator Ellen Roberts joined every Democrat in the chamber in voting in favor of the bill, which is expected to pass the Democrat-controlled House and be signed by the governor, Democrat John Hickenlooper, allowing same-sex couples in Colorado to form civil unions as early as May 1.

Testimony from senators on both sides of the aisle lasted through the morning and into the afternoon, and included proposed amendments that would have referred the issue to voters, and another that would have allowed individuals and organizations to discriminate on the basis of religious convictions.

Calling the amendment "a threat to justice everywhere," bill sponsor and gay Denver Democratic senator Pat Steadman described the "religious freedom" amendment "as open season on gay couples who have a civil union," noting that the amendment would allow businesses and individuals to deny employment, housing, and adoption protections to same-sex couples based on religious beliefs. 

“Committed gay and lesbian couples in the state have been waiting for years — 10, 20, even 40 years — to have their relationships protected," said Brad Clark, executive director of One Colorado, the lead organization advocating for passage of the bill. "It's well past time that these families have equal protection under the law. We applaud the bipartisan passage of civil unions in the Senate and look forward to the debate in the House.”

This year marks the third time LGBT supporters have brought civil unions legislation before the legislature. Last year, the bill passed the Senate and two House committees with bipartisan support, but Republican leadership refused to allow the bill to come to a floor vote in a dramatic procedural move that shut down the legislature on the last day of the session. 

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