In a bipartisan vote on Monday the Colorado Senate Judiciary Committee voted 6–3 to advance a civil unions bill designed to give same-sex couples many of the same state-sanctioned rights as marriage.
Introduced by openly gay Senator Pat Steadman (D-Denver), SB-175 gives same-sex couples many important rights such as survivorship and inheritance rights as well as end-of-life decision making rights. It also clarifies step-parent adoption rights as they relate to this legislation and introduces a legal framework for the dissolution of civil unions.
Testimony on the bill saw one Republican lawmaker condemn the legislation as being a “carbon copy” of marriage.
The sate adopted a constitutional amendment in 2006, Amendment 43, codifying an existing statutory ban on same-sex marriages by explicitly defining marriage as a heterosexual union between one man and one woman. Lawmakers opposed to the civil unions bill are arguing that, while the amendment did not explicitly ban civil unions, they are sufficiently similar to marriage that they violate the spirit of the ban.
The legislation also faced criticism from stringent anti-gay voices who said that the bill would lead to unwanted sexual topics in schools.
Advocates of the bill seem cautiously optimistic however, and cite that this is a necessary step to remedying inequality in the state while still acting within the bounds of the constitutional ban on full marriage equality.
From The Advocate:
All five committee Democrats were joined by Republican senator Ellen Collins of southwestern Colorado in their support of the bill. In her closing statements, Collins commended the familial protections included in the bill and cited her experience working in family services, where she said she saw no difference in the love and commitment shown by gay and lesbian parents than that shown by heterosexual parents.
Senator Steadman said of Monday’s vote in favor of civil unions: “I’m elated. This is a very significant event for me personally, and for my constituents, and for the advancement of our laws in Colorado, to make sure that they work equally for everyone.”
Supportive testimony for the state senate bill drew 27 witnesses representing a varied collection of citizens from across the state, including activists, business organizations, and religious clergy representatives.
Testimony in opposition to the bill saw 19 witnesses, including Rosina Kovar, whose testimony was the most provocative of the hearing. In addition to quoting Joseph Stalin, comparing “homosexual fornication and sodomy” to Big Tobacco, and describing the physical composition of the anus, Kovar claimed that this bill would lead to mandated sex education in elementary schools. “If you introduce sexual education to kids [between the ages of 5 and 12], they won’t learn compassion,” she said.
Republican senators Bill Lundberg, Steve King, and Mark Scheffel voted against the bill. Of those voting no, Lundberg, the ranking Republican committee member, was the only legislator to speak. His commentary focused on the similarities between civil unions and marriage, arguing that SB-172 essentially creates a “carbon copy” of marriage.
“Make no mistake,” Lundberg said in his closing comments, “this bill will change the institution of marriage for Colorado.”
Interestingly, among opponents of the bill were a gay couple arguing that the legislation would lead the wider public to think that civil unions offered all the rights and status equal to marriage, which, they pointed out, civil unions do not, whereby they labeled the move as “crumbs, not the cake.” You can read more about that at The Advocate.
The bill will now be scheduled to go before the full Senate where it will likely face further revision.
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