Civil-unions bill gets initial approval

Colorado Senate committee OKs gay-rights legislation on 6-3 vote; its future in House uncertain

DENVER — It still faces a tough battle elsewhere in the Colorado Legislature, but a measure to allow gays and lesbians to enter into civil unions had little trouble getting approval in a Senate committee Monday.

Though the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Pat Steadman, said the idea isn’t marriage, he said it does offer many of the same benefits that married couples have under state law.

Still, Steadman said it doesn’t violate the Colorado Constitution, which defines marriage as only being between a man and a woman.

Republicans on the committee, however, said civil unions are too much like marriage to be seen as anything else, and likely would be held unconstitutional, as a result.

Regardless, the measure cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee on a 6–3 vote, with only one Republican, Sen. Ellen Roberts, R-Durango, favoring it. Sen. Steve King, R-Grand Junction, who also sits on the committee, opposed it.

Dozens of same-sex couples spent hours testifying in favor of it, complaining they are tired of being treated as second-class couples.

Jerry Shelton, a seven-year resident of Fruita and president of Western Equality, a Western Slope gay and lesbian advocacy group, told the committee that people need time to accept gays and lesbians as equals.

“Things change according to people’s acceptance, and we at Western Equality have worked very hard to gain that acceptance,” he said. “It hasn’t been easy. This bill would help.”

Much of the opposition to SB172 centered on arguments that homosexuality is contrary to natural laws and religious tenets.

Gary Morgan, a Denver resident who claimed to be representing all born-again Christians, said gays and lesbians should turn from their misguided ways and look to Jesus Christ.

Roger Anghis, a pastor at the Prevailing Word Ministries in Englewood, said he counsels his followers to accept themselves for how God made their “plumbing” on the outside, not for how they feel on the inside.

“Gay relationships have never been endorsed by God,” Anghis said. “When you put this bill up against the gospel of Jesus Christ, (it’s) reprehensible on all levels. It is acceptance of a deviant debauchery, and a laughingstock in the eyes of God.”

Steadman introduced the measure with 26 Democratic co-sponsors, but no Republicans, though some GOP senators have said they support it.

As a result, it’s expected to pass the Senate, where Democrats are in charge. It likely will face a tougher time in the House, however, where the GOP holds a 33–32 majority.



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