Colorado lawmakers passed a civil unions bill Tuesday; Governor expected to sign into law

DENVER - Seven years after Colorado voters banned gay marriage, civil unions is becoming law.

Colorado state House members approved the controversial civil unions bill Tuesday morning. The bill passed on a 39-26 House vote, with two Republicans joining all Democrats to approve it.

SB-011 now goes to Gov. John Hickenlooper, who is expected to sign the bill into law.

The proposal gives unmarried couples, including gay couples, expanded legal protections in several areas including the transfer of property, legal claims, probate law, survivor benefits, unemployment, adoption, health insurance and much more.

The bill covers any two unmarried adults, regardless of gender, meaning same-sex couples and other couples can enter a civil union. Couples will need to apply for a civil union license and file certification paperwork with their county clerk and recorder.

The proposal has been one of the most emotional and contentious of the last three sessions. Gay couples have urged lawmakers to pass the bill, saying it would grant them legal protections they don't have because they're not allowed to marry.

As supporters celebrate their victory, Democratic House Speaker Mark Ferrandino is also looking forward, hoping Colorado will eventually consider gay marriage.

"I've always said and been open that I support full marriage equality, " he said.

Advocates of gay marriage say it's a true symbol of equality because it grants federal benefits to same-sex couples.

"Couples in the state of Colorado under civil unions will still not be able to file joint income tax together, they still not be afforded access to federal benefits like social security," said Brad Clark, executive director of One Colorado.

For gay marriage to be even considered in Colorado -- voters would have to vote to overturn the amendment they approved in 2006 -- defining marriage as between a man and woman.
"I think you'll have a feel when it's right.  Things are changing so quickly," said Ferrandino.      
Because of this shift in public opinion, Kristy King is launching a business as a civil union event planner.

"I'll help them book vendors, the cake person, the florist, the photographer," said King.

About a dozen states have civil unions or similar laws.

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