Colorado likely to abandon discrimination crime due to civil unions law


DENVER — An unenforced discrimination crime in Colorado is likely coming off the books under a bipartisan agreement inspired by a civil unions bill.

The state House voted 47-15 Tuesday to remove criminal penalties for discriminating in places of public accommodation.

Democrats and Republicans sponsored the bill together after discussions about a new law granting legal recognition to same-sex couples.

One of the sponsors of the civil unions bill, Democratic Sen. Pat Steadman of Denver, said opponents have repeatedly expressed fears that wedding planners or other business people could be tossed in jail for refusing to serve gays or lesbians. Formally removing it from the criminal section from Colorado law could ensure that couldn’t happen.

“No one has ever gone to jail for a day for this,” Steadman said Wednesday. Employment discrimination already is punishable only by civil fines, not jail, and Steadman said public accommodation policies should be the same.

The repeal has already passed the Senate and awaits the signature of Gov. John Hickenlooper.

If approved by Hickenlooper, discrimination in a public accommodation would now be a civil offense.

The civil unions law takes effect May 1.

Associated Press contributed to this report.

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