One Down, Four to Go

(Feb. 28) – For the second time in as many years, the House Judiciary Committee approved a bill today to establish civil unions in Colorado. And for the second time in as many years, the bill received bipartisan support.

Rep. Carole Murray (R-Castle Rock) characterized herself as being “to the right of Attila the Hun,” then joined the committee’s seven Democrats in support of the bill. The vote was 8-3.

SB13-011, sponsored in the House by Speaker Mark Ferrandino (D-Denver) and Rep. Sue Schafer (D-Wheat Ridge), 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 heterosexual couples in Colorado.

Speaker Ferrandino told the committee that since he and his longtime partner recently became the foster parents of a baby girl, “I am reminded every day that family matters more than anything else.”

“This legislation won’t change my relationship with Greg or Lila,” he said, “but it will provide the needed protections for our precious daughter and for ourselves.”

Rep. Schafer also spoke from personal experience.

“My partner, Dr. Barb Nash, and I have been together for 22 years,” she told the committee. “We have spent thousands of dollars on wills, powers of attorney, living wills and other documents to secure whatever protections we could as a couple. However, Barb and I feel vulnerable with the tools we do have, and would feel much more responsible if we had the power of Colorado law above us – a civil union protecting us, protecting our family and our property.”

A civil unions bill failed in the Judiciary Committee in 2011, but passed there in 2012 on its way to a dramatic death when Republican leadership pulled a procedural maneuver to prevent it from reaching the House floor.

This year’s bill has already been approved by the state Senate. After today’s vote it will be considered by the House Finance and Appropriations Committees before going to the House floor for second- and third-reading votes.

After House passage, the signature of Gov. John Hickenlooper will be the final step in making Colorado the 18th state to grant some form of legal recognition to gay and lesbian couples.

“It’s been a long, hard struggle to enact civil unions in Colorado, and I’m excited that we’re writing the final chapter,” Speaker Ferrandino said after today’s vote.

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