Bill to grant civil unions gets first OK

One day, Americans will be just as ashamed of not giving same-sex couples the same rights as married ones as they are of the nation’s history of allowing blacks to be slaves or denying the right to vote to all but white landowners.

That, at least, is what several state senators said motivated them Wednesday when they gave preliminary approval to a civil-union bill that would grant gay and lesbian couples some of the same rights as heterosexual couples.

Slavery, suffrage and laws discriminating against race or religion have fallen by the wayside over the nation’s 235-year history, so why not laws prohibiting same-sex couples from having the same rights as their heterosexual counterparts, asked Sen. Michael Johnston, D-Denver.

“Those are all moments in history that many of us are not proud of now to look back at,” Johnston said. “What we are proud of is those moments when good people stood up and had that hard conversation and said, ‘We believe on balance that all are created equal means all are created equal.’ “

The measure, which has the backing of all 20 Democrats in the Senate and a handful of Republicans, doesn’t grant gays and lesbians the right to marry, but it does give them the same rights to inheritance, to jointly own property and the right to make medical decisions for each other, to name a few.

Opponents argued that those rights make civil unions everything that marriage is, and by law, marriage can only be between a man and a woman.

Sen. Kevin Lundberg, R-Berthoud, said that’s not a road he wants to go down.

He said in 2006 Colorado voters not only rejected a constitutional amendment that would have created domestic partnerships for same-sex couples, but they approved an amendment declaring marriage as being between a man and a woman only.

“(SB172) is not in line with what the people of Colorado have called for. It is not in line with most definitely the spirit of the Constitution for Colorado,” Lundberg said. “It is marriage with a different name. It is not just affecting a few within the state. It’s affecting the very concept of what marriage is. This is a very different road than what most citizens of Colorado are wanting to see occur. This is a dramatic, radical change to marriage.”

Gay groups say recent polls indicate nearly three-fourths of Coloradans would support allowing same-sex couples to enter into civil unions.

The measure requires a final vote in the Democratic-controlled Senate, which could come as early as today. It’s fate in the GOP-controlled House, however, is uncertain.

Supporters of the measure said they have Republican support to get approval by the full House, but they are unsure if it will get that far, depending upon which committee it is assigned.


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