At a packed hearing yesterday in Denver, supporters and detractors of gay marriage both took to the stands to debate a proposed civil union law, which would extend the legal benefits of marriage to same-sex couples in Colorado…without calling it “marriage.”
While the legislation obviously leaves a lot to be desired, civil unions in Colorado would be a good first step, providing much-needed protections for same-sex couples. In 2006, a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage passed by a narrow margin – so, for now at least, civil union legislation is as good as the Colorado LGBT community can hope for.
The bill would grant couples the right to make medical and end-of-life decisions for their partners and would enhance inheritance and property rights. The bill even addresses questions of what would happen when same-sex couples with children separate, outlining child support and parental rights.
The bill has been approved in a 5-2 vote, with one Republican senator casting his support for the law. While the law will probably easily pass the Senate, the Republican-controlled House will be another matter entirely.
Some Republican lawmakers are already decrying the bill. Senator Kevin Lunberg protested during the hearing, calling civil unions “a legal jui-jitsu to get around the term” of “gay marriage.” He fears that civil union legislation is a ploy to open the doors to legalizing same-sex marriage further own the road.
It’s hard to argue with that – that’s more or less the strategy being used by LGBT advocates in the state. But what the hearings yesterday made clear is that there are many same-sex couples in Colorado for whom any legal recognition is desperately needed. One couple, Shawna Kempainnen and Lisa Green, described their struggles with multiple sclerosis and how a civil union would help them better deal with Green’s medical issues.
Several Republicans, both straight and gay, did chime in support of the proposed law. Michael Carr, a member of the Log Cabin Republicans, warned that Republicans with GLBT family members will start to resent the party if it continues behavior that he called “hateful” and “bigoted.”
The Denver Post has more information, along with some great video footage from the hearing. We’ll keep the Care2 community updated as the law continues its progress through the state legislature.
Photo Credit: Guillaume Paumier