Colorado last night moved closer to passing a civil unions bill after the Colorado House Judiciary Committee voted 6-5 to pass the Colorado Civil Union Act. While debate was minimal, public testimony was rancorous, with several citizens claiming the bill interfered with their religious rights.
“The Republican-controlled House is expected to have enough GOP support to pass the legislation, so this committee vote was perhaps its biggest hurdle,” Think Progress noted last night.
The bill will proceed to the House Finance Committee before advancing to the full chamber. Opponents testifying against the measure were led by representatives from the Alliance Defense Fund, whose primary argument was that civil unions are a “gateway” to same-sex marriage. They also argued that Coloradans do not support civil unions, but a recent poll found that 62 percent, in fact, do. The Colorado Senate passed the bill last week and Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) has committed to signing it.
ABC News reported:
Opponents argue civil unions undermine traditional marriage and that voters expressed their position on the issue when they banned same-sex marriage in 2006.
Byron Babione, with the Alliance Defense Fund, a conservative group that stands for religious freedom, echoed the concerns of some of the opponents when he said civil unions are “marriage without the name.”
However, supporters say the bill still does not allow marriage between gay couples.
Opponents also said gay couples already have some of the legal protections they’re seeking under a state-designated beneficiary law.
But supporters said there are still important rights same-sex couples lack. The civil unions legislation gives gay couples more authority in medical and end-of-life decisions and enhances parental rights, among other things.
“I ask you to vote tonight in favor of all of your constituents,” said Jason Cobb, a Denver attorney who is raising a son with another man. “We’re more than a political issue. We’re your family, we’re your neighbors, your sons, your daughters, your grandchildren. I ask you to vote for family tonight.”
Before the hearing, scores of people in civil unions rallied across from the state Capitol on the steps of Denver’s City and County building. They held multicolored signs that read “Love is love” and “Equality for All,” and carried a rainbow-colored flag.
Fran Simon, 43, showed the crowd a stack of paperwork that she and her partner, 42-year-old Anna Simon, have amassed to prove the legitimacy of their relationship — wills, powers of attorney and a birth certificate for their 4-year-old son.
“But even with this large stack of papers, we have no way of knowing if in our time of need, will it be sufficient?” said Fran Simon. “Even if it’s sufficient, will we have the right paper at the right time?”
“Today’s bipartisan vote is a tremendous victory for gay and lesbian couples across the state,” Brad Clark, Executive Director of One Colorado, a statewide organization advocating for gay and transgender people, said in a statement. “We applaud Representative Nikkel’s courageous vote for all families. She is the new face of the Republican Party—a party that’s quickly recognizing that civil unions adhere to a core conservative principle: the less intrusion into personal liberty the better,” Clark said, adding, “We look forward to a robust floor debate by all of our Representatives in the coming days. Issues with overwhelming public support like civil unions deserve a full up-or-down vote.”
One Colorado also noted that “[a]ccording to polls, support for civil unions is high. An April 2012 Public Policy Polling poll showed that 62% of Coloradans, 82% of Democrats, and 75% of Independents support the legislation. Even a strong majority of Republicans—55% in fact—support either civil unions or marriage for same-sex couples.”
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