Colorado Senate passes civil union bill; measure will likely become law

Hickenlooper plans to sign civil unions into law

DENVER - A bill granting civil unions to same-sex Colorado couples has cleared the state Senate for the third and possibly final time.

The Senate approved civil unions 21-14 without debate Monday. All Democrats voted for the legal recognition for gay partners. Republican Sen. Ellen Roberts of Durango joined them. The other 14 Republicans voted against the measure.

The chamber planned the final vote Monday to send the measure to the House. It is the third time the Colorado Senate has approved the legal recognition for gay partners.

Last week, the Senate moved the bill forward, giving it preliminary approval. Proponents of the bill hugged and shed tears after that vote.

Monday's vote will likely be the curtain call for civil unions in the State Senate because the House is now under Democratic control and is likely to approve the measure, sending it to the governor's desk. Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper has said he plans to sign civil unions into law.

Civil unions would grant gay couples rights similar to marriage. More than a dozen states allow either civil unions or gay marriage. Colorado's constitution currently bans gay marriage.

Opponents, including Sen. Owen Hill, a Republican from El Paso County, say the bill will lead to the worst form of government policy, “that which takes rights away from some in the process of granting them to others.”

Hill proposed an amendment to grant a religious conviction exemption, but it was voted down Friday.

Proponents like Sen. Pat Steadman, who recently lost his long time partner to cancer, say some people use religion as an excuse to discriminate and cited a recent report of a baker declining to provide a cake to a same-sex couple as an example.

“Should the State of Colorado give effect to this type of discrimination?  Should religion trump laws of general applicability? I don’t think so,” Steadman said Friday.

The bill’s other main sponsor, Sen. Lucia Guzman, a Denver Democrat was more subdued, saying the Civil Unions bill will bring about equality.

“This will make it possible for all those who have been on the outside of the law, who have been on the outside of justice, to be valid partners in the laws of the State of Colorado,” Guzman said. “And that’s justice.”

With both chambers controlled by democrats, there is a good chance that the Civil Unions bill will end up on Governor John Hickenlooper’s desk.

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