Civil unions bill faces test in House

Only time will tell if a civil-union bill to give same-sex couples similar rights as those offered to married couples will gain enough Republican support in the Colorado House as it did in the Senate.

On Thursday, the controversial measure got three Republicans to join with the 20 Democrats in the Senate to approve the measure, but it’s unknown if the same will happen in the House, where the GOP has a slim 33–32 majority.

Several House Republicans such as Reps. Kevin Priola of Henderson and Marsha Looper of Calhan have said they might support it if it reaches the House floor, but that’s only if Senate Bill 172 gets past the House Judiciary Committee, a panel none of those possible GOP supporters sit on.

The Republican senators who supported it, the only female senators in the GOP caucus, said they did so because it was the right thing to do. Two of them, Sens. Jean White of Hayden and Ellen Roberts of Durango, are from the Western Slope.

White said she decided to speak out for the measure after listening to several Democrats on Wednesday talk about their personal experiences with gay and lesbian people who were not treated equally under the state’s laws.

“It occurred to me that if I did not come to the mic in support of this bill today that I would be voting quietly for it, but not have the courage to stand up for what is right,” White said. “My vote today is for love and respect and commitment.”

Roberts said unlike some of her Republican colleagues, she doesn’t believe a civil union is the same as marriage, nor does it threaten marriage. But she said the measure isn’t about that. It’s about creating a legal framework to protect children of those same-sex couples, she said.

“This is a civil union, but it is a step to create that legal framework that surrounds children,” Roberts said. “Fundamentally, as a Republican I feel what I have to look at is: Does it fit my core beliefs? I feel strongly in protecting all people’s individual rights, freedoms and liberties, and this bill advances that.”

Other Republicans said the law already offers protections to same-sex couples, including children in such families.

Sen. Scott Renfroe, R-Greeley, said the measure ultimately will put children at risk. He said marriage is the fundamental institution that holds society and religion together, and civil unions are contrary to both.

“The family structure matters for children, and the family structure that helps children the most is a family headed by two biological parents in a low-conflict marriage,” he said. “Children in single-parent families, children to unmarried mothers, children in stepfamilies or cohabiting relationships face higher risks for poor outcomes.”


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