Colorado civil unions bill passes second committee, moves to whole Senate

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January 31, 2013 | 10:22 am
(Updated: February 22, 2013 | 5:42 pm)

A bill to establish civil unions in Colorado passed its second committee hearing of 2013 this morning – the Senate Appropriations Committee – and now moves on to the full Senate where it is expected to also pass and advance to the House.

The Jan. 31 Appropriations Committee hearing, which was not open to public testimony, focused on the bill’s impact on the state budget. Committee members voted 4-3 to advance the bill.

State law requires all bills to receive at least one public committee hearing in each legislative chamber, in which anyone present can sign up to testify for or against it. Bills must also be opened for debate among the elected members of each chamber when they reach each chamber’s floor for final votes. The full Senate will debate and vote on civil unions late next week or the week after, and the bill will receive another round of public testimony during a yet-unscheduled committee hearing in the House after it advances there.

Sen. Pat Steadman, who introduced the civil unions bills during the 2011 and 2012 regular legislative sessions, is a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, as is newly-elected Sen. Jessie Ulibarri, who in previous years testified for civil unions as a private citizen with his partner Louis Trujillo. Steadman and Ulibarri joined the two other committee Democrats who voted for the bill, while all three Republicans there voted against it.

Statewide LGBT advocacy organization One Colorado released a statement from Executive Director Brad Clark after the Appropriations Committee vote:

Committed gay and lesbian couples in the state have been waiting for years — 10, 20, even 40 years — to have their relationships protected. It’s well past time that these families have equal protection under the law.

We applaud the members of the Senate Appropriations Committee who voted to affirm that all families are worthy of dignity and respect. We look forward to bipartisan passage on the floor of the Senate.

Our community isn’t advocating for civil unions in order to achieve some historic victory for Colorado. We’re advocating for our families — for the couples that have been together 40 years, for the kids whose parents aren’t treated equally in the eyes of the law, for the gay student who finally sees his government recognizing who he is. That’s what we’re fighting for.

This is the third time civil unions has reached this stage in the legislative process – having passed the full Senate both times it was introduced during regular legislative sessions in 2011 and 2012 – but both times it was blocked in the Republican-controlled House. This time Democrats have control of the House along with the Senate, and Democratic House Speaker Rep. Mark Ferrandino, who is openly gay, will be the bill’s main sponsor in the House. The bill is widely expected to pass and be signed into law by Governor Hickenlooper this spring.

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