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Colorado Senate advances civil unions bill, doubt surrounds House possibilities

By Nic Garcia
Out Front Colorado
Friday, April 27, 2012
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DENVER — The Colorado state Senate on Thursday gave its final approval to a bill that would establish civil unions here. But before the Senate even took up the matter, the legislation appeared Dead On Arrival in the House of Representatives.

The Colorado Civil Union Act passed on third reading with bipartisan support, 23-12. All 20 Democrats and all three Republican women voted for bill, just as they did last year.

“A person is a person is a person,” said Sen. Ellen Roberts (R-Durango), supporting the bill. “And individual rights should be shared by all.”

Roberts said her vote was steeped in both her personal and professional life as a lawyer. But her hopes was the passage of civil unions would repair some of the damage done by Amendment 2, a voter approved ballot initiative that would have forbidden municipalities for creating special laws for LGBT people.

“In 1992, when Amendment 2 passed, I was stopped in my tracks,” she said. “It was a punch in my stomach. (Passing civil unions) will restore your’s, mine and Colorado’s collective soul we lost in the 1990s.”

But not all Republicans agreed.

Quoting scripture and the founding fathers, Sen. Scott Renfroe, R-Greeley said, “I truly believe Jesus is a better answer than Senate Bill 2.”

Several other senators — Republican and Democratic — bent scripture to their position. And some Republicans showed up with hundreds of postcards filled out in churches across Colorado asking for a ‘no’ vote. But the bill’s sponsor Sen. Pat Steadman said the one commandment all lawmakers should follow is not in the Bible, but in the U.S. Constitution, Amendment 14.

“I don’t care how tall the stacks of postcards grow. They are outweighed by … the Colorado and U.S. Constitution,” he said. “I came to the Senate not with a theological background. And I was not elected to debate scripture,” he said.

Sen. Kevin Lundberg said he disagrees with the notion that a vote against the legislation was a vote against gays. Instead, it is a vote on whether Colorado law should expand and change its definition and practice of marriage.

“I know it doesn’t call it marriage,” he said. “But it takes every aspect of marriage in Colorado law and put another definition right beside it.”

The Colorado Constitution defines marriage between one man and one woman.

Now the legislation moves to the state House of Representatives — where a similar bill was killed last year by a Republican controlled committee and a leader today said it will meet a similar fate.

The bill would grant most of all the rights and responsibilities of marriage to any two Colorado adults regardless of gender. Colorado’s constitution defines marriage between a man and a woman.

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