Civil unions in Colorado begin Wednesday

DENVER - Seven years after voters banned gay marriage in the state constitution and nearly one year after a special session on civil unions ended with no agreement, civil unions will begin in Colorado very early on Wednesday morning.

Last year, Colorado governor John Hickenlooper called a special legislative session over civil unions and other bills after a filibuster by Colorado House Republicans ended the regular session. Hickenlooper said at the time that there was an "overwhelming need to discuss civil unions."

Within hours, the civil unions bill died in committee.

This session, a very different outcome. The bill introduced in February sailed through the House and Senate. Governor Hickenlooper signed the bill into law on March 21. It takes effect on May 1.

"It's really meaningful, to have the recognition of your love and relationship just like any other relationship by the state is an important both legal and symbolic thing," said Democratic House Speaker Mark Ferrandino, a sponsor of the bill and the first gay lawmaker to hold the title of speaker in Colorado.

Civil unions grant unmarried couples, both gay and heterosexual, rights similar to marriage, including:

- Transferring property to one another
- Making medical decisions for one another
- Adopting a child together
- Qualifying for health insurance and survivor benefits

Denver's Office of the Clerk and Recorder will be open at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday to issue licenses. Civil union ceremonies will be performed at the Webb Municipal Office Building from 12:01 a.m. to 2 a.m. by local judges, magistrates, and qualified religious and lay officiants, according to LGBT advocacy group One Colorado.

Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock will be among those performing ceremonies, city officials said.

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