(March 12) – After one last morning of debate in which members shared stories of their gay and lesbian family members and friends, the Colorado General Assembly completed its passage of civil unions today, enacting a historic advancement of opportunity for thousands of Colorado families.

The House vote today was 39 to 26. Having been approved by the state Senate last month, the bill now goes to Gov. John Hickenlooper, who has promised to sign it. On May 1, Colorado is set to become the 18th state to grant some level of legal recognition to same-sex couples.

SB13-011, sponsored in the House by Speaker Mark Ferrandino (D-Denver) and Rep. Sue Schafer (D-Wheat Ridge), will provide benefits, protections and responsibilities similar to those granted to other recognized, committed couples.

“Yes, our focus is on jobs, but there are other things we can do,” Rep. Ferrandino told the House. On behalf of himself and the other four gay or lesbian representatives, he asked the body to recognize “that our love is the same as everyone else’s love, and that our families are the same as everyone else’s families.”

“Look at yourself in the mirror,” he told the members. “Just make sure that you feel confident that you’re making the right vote and that you feel confident that that vote is something you will be proud of in the future. I ask for an aye vote on Senate Bill 11, to honor love, family and equality.”

“I’m asking for your courage and your commitment to keep the doors of opportunity open,” Rep. Schafer told the House.

Reps. Cheri Gerou (R-Evergreen) and Carole Murray (R-Castle Rock) joined the House’s 37 Democrats in support of the bill.

Today’s vote rewrote a chapter in Colorado history. Civil unions were scheduled for debate on the House floor late in the 2012 session, but the Republican leadership at the time shut down the House rather than allow the bill, which had the support of a majority of representatives, to be debated.

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