Colo. lawmakers hear civil unions bill testimony

DENVER — A proposal to grant same-sex couples similar rights and protections as married couples is up for its first hearing at the Colorado Legislature today, and lawmakers expect to hear several hours of public testimony before they vote.

The bill sponsored by two openly gay Democrats would allow couples to enter into a civil union so they could have several legal rights, including the ability to be involved in their partner’s medical decisions. Senate Bill 172 would also enhance inheritance rights and make it easier for couples to list each other as dependents on health insurance.

Gay couples would still not be able to marry, because voters banned same-sex marriage in 2006. But the bill’s sponsors, Sen. Pat Steadman and Rep. Mark Ferrandino, both from Denver, said attitudes have changed substantially since then, and they believe the most Coloradoans support their legislation.

Hawaii recently became the seventh state to allow civil unions. Illinois passed a civil unions law in January.

Colorado Republicans in the Senate, where the bill is being heard in committee today, say voters want them to focus on the economy.

“While Democrats certainly have the freedom to introduce this legislation, the Senate Republicans will continue to focus on our agenda of limiting the size of government, public safety and promoting job growth,” said Sen. Mike Kopp, the Republican leader in the Senate.

Democrats expect the civil unions bill to clear the Senate, where they have a 20-15 majority and every Democrat has signed up as co-sponsor. But the bill will face a tougher challenge in the House, where Republicans have a slight majority.

Rep. Claire Levy, a Democrat from Boulder, said there are a handful of Republicans who would support the bill in the House. But the bill may not make it to the floor for a full vote, because Democrats expect Republican House Speaker Frank McNulty to assign it to a committee where it will likely die, she said.

“What I hear is that the chances aren’t very good, which I think is a shame. I don’t know why this would be a partisan issue,” Levy said.

Online:
Read Senate Bill 172: http://tinyurl.com/48y5k5d



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