News (USA)

Colorado Civil Union Act approved by committee; heads to Senate floor

DENVER — The Colorado Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday approved SB-11, the Colorado Civil Union Act.

The bill, approved by a vote of 4-3, now moves to the Senate floor for a vote.

If passed, SB-11 will provide committed gay and lesbian couples with critical legal protections and responsibilities, such as the ability to take family leave to care for a partner, to make medical and end-of-life decisions for a partner, to live together in a nursing home, and to adopt children together.

“Committed gay and lesbian couples in the state have been waiting for years — 10, 20, even 40 years — to have their relationships protected. It’s well past time that these families have equal protection under the law,” said Brad Clark, Executive Director of One Colorado, a statewide LGBT advocacy group.

“We applaud the members of the Senate Appropriations Committee who voted to affirm that all families are worthy of dignity and respect. We look forward to bipartisan passage on the floor of the Senate,” said Clark, in a statement.

“Our community isn’t advocating for civil unions in order to achieve some historic victory for Colorado. We’re advocating for our families — for the couples that have been together 40 years, for the kids whose parents aren’t treated equally in the eyes of the law, for the gay student who finally sees his government recognizing who he is. That’s what we’re fighting for.”

During the hearing Thursday, State Sen. Ted Harvey called the bill “draconian,” predicted the state would incur huge legal fees for taxpayers because he said it violates religious freedoms, and questioned why the bill’s fiscal note didn’t include the potential for lawsuits.

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Sen. Pat Steadman, one of the bill’s sponsors who also serves on the Joint Budget Committee, said any law the legislature passes could be challenged in court and none of that is included in the fiscal analysis.

The bill is sponsored by four of Colorado’s out Democratic gay lawmakers, Steadman and Sen. Lucia Guzman, and state Reps. Mark Ferrandino and Sue Schafer, and is on a fast track to reach Gov. John W. Hickenlooper’s desk sometime in early spring and become law May 1.

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