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Civil union bill gets initial approval by Colorado state Senate

By NIC GARCIA| Out Front Colorado
Friday, February 8, 2013

DENVER — The Colorado State Senate on Friday gave the initial OK to a bill that would establish relationship recognition for same-sex couples after hours of debate and four attempts by Republican lawmakers to amend the bill to either establish or strengthen religious exemptions and halt how quickly the the bill becomes law.

The Senate will need to consider the bill again next week before passing it off to the state of House of Representatives.

Colorado state capitol in Denver.

Republican senators proposed four amendments to the Colorado Civil Union Act that more specifically would have defined religious entities as small businesses with stated religious values and granted those entities an opt-out from recognizing civil unions between same-sex couples; would have allowed child placement agencies to rebuff applications by same-sex couples; would have referred the bill to the voters in a referendum; and would have pushed the start date for the bill back 90 days after the legislature adjourned giving voters the right to repeal the law by ballot.

Supporters of the first proposed amendment said the bill in current form redefines the First Amendment and would deny individuals their rights to practice their religion for the sake of same-sex couples.

“Women’s suffrage was not established by taking away the vote of men,” Hill said, arguing religious rights would suffer if the bill becomes law.

Supporters of the Colorado Civil Union Act said the amendment would have written discrimination into the law.

Just moments before Hill introduced his amendment, sponsor of the Colorado Civil Union Act, state Sen. Pat Steadman told those who would like the option to discriminate against same sex couples, “Get thee to a nunnery … Go to your church and build separate water fountains.”

Steadman said discrimination had no place in civil law.

Arguing their other amendments, Republicans forewarned of doom including adoption agencies shutting down and litigation.

“Pass the bill without the amendment and adoptions will stop, not all, but many,” the amendment sponsor Sen. Kevin Lundberg warned.

Steadman said it should ‘give us all pause’ if adoption agencies operate on religious beliefs rather than what’s best for kids.

The Colorado Senate debated the question of whether the State should establish relationship recognition for same-sex couples for the third time in as many years.

The bill, sponsored in the Senate by Steadman and and state Sen. Lucia Guzman, both openly gay Denver Democrats, is expected to pass easily with bipartisan support — as it has in the past. First introduced by Steadman in 2011, state Republican House leadership in previous years blocked the bill from advancing to the executive branch and becoming law.

But with a change in leadership — Democrats now control both chambers of the state legislature — comes assurance as the sky is blue: the bill will be signed into law by Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper sometime in early spring, after the bill clears every legislative hurdle as defined by law. That includes multiple committee hearings, a debate and two votes by each chamber.

“I know how the vote is going to go today,” smiled out gay lawmaker Sen. Jessie Ulibarri.

Ulibarri chaired the debate.

The current version of bill had already cleared two hearings. Today’s debate set up a final vote by the Senate next week. At that point, out lawmakers Speaker of the House Mark Ferrandino, D-Denver, and state Rep. Sue Schaffer, D-Wheat Ridge, will carry the bill in the House.

The law is expected to take effect May 1.

“This is an urgent matter that needs to be settled here and now,” Steadman said.

Missing from Senate floor today is Steadman’s partner, Dave Misner. Misner died last year after battling pancreatic cancer.

Steadman had, in previous debates, evoked his relationship with Misner, as Misner looked on from the sidelines of the Senate.

At Misner’s memorial, Steadman vowed to finish what they started together.

“Despite my personal loss, my mission is urgent and is within my grasp,” Steadman said in September.

In introducing the bill during today’s debate, Steadman said the legislation was gift.

“Senate Bill 11 is for the lovers and the gifts they give one another. Senate Bill 11 is the gift we give them,” he said.

© OutFront Colorado.
An LGBTQ Nation media partner.

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14 more reader comments:

  1. As the great Jerry Garcia sang….”The wheel is turning and it can’t slow down…. Won’t you try just a little bit harder…couldn’t you try just a little bit more….a little bit further than you’ve gone before”

    Posted on Friday, February 8, 2013 at 1:05pm
  2. Awesome News, Liberation has succeeded once again, in life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, Don’t ever forget that :-) people are all equal, discrimination is wrong, none of us are completely alike, we are all different and unique in our own way, people have the right to love and care about whoever they want too, without being slandered, taunted, or being a victim of hate crime!, I accept all people, I don’t discriminate, and I support LGBTQ Rights!

    Posted on Friday, February 8, 2013 at 1:15pm
  3. yes!

    Posted on Friday, February 8, 2013 at 1:23pm
  4. step in the right direction

    Posted on Friday, February 8, 2013 at 1:38pm
  5. WAY TO GO

    Posted on Friday, February 8, 2013 at 1:57pm
  6. About damn time, it’s not like the GLBT community defends the country, goes to work every day or pays taxes in a country that supposedly has FREEDOM of religion.

    Posted on Friday, February 8, 2013 at 2:06pm
  7. And now even further proof that states that have passed nondiscrimination laws can get just that much closer to marriage equality.

    Posted on Friday, February 8, 2013 at 2:24pm
  8. Exciting

    Posted on Friday, February 8, 2013 at 2:43pm
  9. Separate still isn’t equal.

    Posted on Friday, February 8, 2013 at 4:54pm
  10. Way to go Colorado one more step to eventually becoming a same sex equal state

    Posted on Friday, February 8, 2013 at 5:12pm
  11. Dude. Awesome. Texas needs to catch up.

    Posted on Friday, February 8, 2013 at 5:14pm
  12. Small steps forward??!! NO!! Its THEM hoping WE will accept “second-class citizenship” so as to “preserve the sacred ‘marriage’ word from being infected by the GAYS”!!!
    F*** second-class, EQUALITY means EQUAL!!! not separate/different…..

    Posted on Friday, February 8, 2013 at 7:53pm
  13. We’re making baby steps. After civil unions are acknowledged, we will work to take marriage inequality out of our state constitution and upgrade to marriage equality. IT WILL HAPPEN!

    Posted on Friday, February 8, 2013 at 8:08pm
  14. The GOP has sickend me once again. In the Colorado Civil Unions bill, they tried to add amendments that would allow discrimination under the guise of “religious freedom.” Look, I don’t care what nonsense you believe in. If you want to discriminate because it is a part of your religion then feel free to do so at your church or whatever. Out in the real world you must realize that not everyone believes in the same myths that you do. Just imagine if such amendments were added to Civil Rights bills. Think of a business rejecting a customer for having skin that isn’t white and saying it is because of their religious freedoms. Asinine, isn’t it? Why does it make sense then for people to say that to homosexuals? Oh, that’s right, because it is still seen as cool. Future generations are going to look back on this time period and shake their heads in shame.

    Posted on Saturday, February 9, 2013 at 3:44pm