May 3, 2012

(Denver) – Moving the state closer than ever before to providing broad legal recognition for same-sex couples, the House Judiciary Committee voted tonight in favor of a bill to establish civil unions in Colorado.

The 6-5 vote reversed the Judiciary Committee’s action on the same bill last year. Tonight, Rep. B.J. Nikkel (R-Loveland) voted with the five Democratic committee members to support the measure.

“I want to thank the committee,” said the bill’s House sponsor, House Democratic Leader Mark Ferrandino. “We’re one step closer to a historic moment in Colorado.”

The measure, SB12-002, would allow all couples – gay, lesbian or straight — to enter into civil unions, which would provide benefits, protections and responsibilities similar to those granted to other recognized, committed couples in Colorado.

The bill was approved 23-12 last month by the state Senate, where its sponsor was Sen. Pat Steadman (D-Denver). Its first stop in the House was the Judiciary Committee, which was generally considered the highest hurdle because the panel’s membership was unchanged from last year. (Because of illness, a Republican Judiciary member was replaced by another for today’s hearing, but the move did not affect the outcome.)

Still to come: the Finance Committee, the Appropriations Committee and the full House, which is scheduled to adjourn on May 9.

“We have won a battle today,” said Rep. Ferrandino (D-Denver), the first gay man to lead the House Democrats. “There are other battles to come in this final week of the legislative session. We can win them, and there is plenty of time left on the calendar to complete our historic work. But we must stick to our task. It’s too soon to celebrate.”

House passage would send the bill to the desk of Gov. John Hickenlooper, who in his State of the State speech in January told the legislature, “It’s time to pass civil unions.” His signature would make Colorado the 15th state to give broad legal recognition to same-sex couples.

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