Colorado House committee approves civil union bill

Colorado House committee approves civil union bill

DENVER — As expected, a House Judiciary Committee approved the Colorado Civil Union Act and set in motion a course to a full debate by the chamber after two stops, likely next week, at other committees for procedural rubber stamping. But the five hour debate was not without a last minute, tearful, surprise.

The bill, sponsored by out gay lawmakers Speaker of the House Mark Ferrandino and state Rep. Sue Schafer, would establish state recognition for same-sex couples. Both are Democrats.

Jeremy Simon, 5, was one of more than 100 people who rallied in support of the Colorado Civil Union Act before a House Judiciary Committee took testimony on the bill.
Photo: Evan Semon, Out Front Colorado

“Our nation has a long and proud history of allowing people to live in freedom,” Schafer said this afternoon introducing the bill.

“I may be Speaker of the House,” Ferrandino said. “But my family does not have equality under the law. We’re not asking for tolerance. You can have your beliefs. What I’m asking for, is that my family and that Rep. Schafer’s family and all LGBT families in Colorado be treated equally under the law.”

The bill passed with bipartisan support vote 8-3.

“Jesus asked us to love one another,” state Rep. Carole Murray, a Douglas County Republican, said. “In that spirit, I’ll be a yes vote on this bill.”

Murray said she had to trust the legal system would work out the differences between secular equality and religious freedoms.

Rep. Bob Gardner, R-Colorado Springs, said he believed voters should decide the issue.

“I find it odd that after 200-plus years that due process requires this,” he said implying relationship recognition for same-sex couples. “I continue to believe the people of Colorado were clear in 2006.”

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For many witnesses, like Lisa Green and Shawna Kemppainen, a lesbian couple from Colorado Springs, testifying in front of the House Judiciary Committee has become too familiar. They’ve done it three years in a row.

“I’m done pleading,” Green said. “… My right to love is not yours to judge, and my right to equality is not yours to withhold.”

The civil union bill was first introduced by state Sen. Pat Steadman, D-Denver, in 2011. A similar House committee killed the bill that year on a party-line vote.

In 2012, state Rep. B.J. Nikkel, R-Loveland, “did the right thing,” and voted for the bill, setting up an epic race against the clock to get the bill to the House floor, where there were enough votes to pass it, for enough time for a debate and a recorded vote.

While the bill was ushered with bipartisan support through two other Republican-controlled committees, then Speaker of the House Frank McNulty, R-Highlands Ranch, and his GOP leadership team haphazardly ran out the clock on the bill.

With Democrats now in control of both chambers after the 2012 elections, the bill is ensured passage. Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, is inclined to sign the bill.

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