Mesa County folks to join statewide celebration of new civil unions law
This is a May Day to celebrate in Colorado. The civil unions law, giving same-sex couples the right to form legally protected relationships, goes into effect today. Throughout the state, preparations are being made for celebrations that will include mass civil union ceremonies.
“It’s really meaningful. To have the recognition of your love and relationship, just like any other relationship by the state, is an important both legal and symbolic thing,” Democratic House Speaker Mark Ferrandino said last month. A sponsor of the bill, Ferrandino is the first gay lawmaker to hold the speaker’s gavel.
These celebrations offer an opportunity for the community to celebrate the triumph of civil rights over prejudice this victory represents. Twenty years ago Colorado earned the epithet “hate state” when it passed the notorious Amendment 2, denying homosexuals legal protections. It was later overturned by the Supreme Court.
The passage of the civil unions bill shows how far the state has come in the direction of more universal civil rights.
At least for the 24 hours beginning midnight this morning, Colorado could be called the “mate state.” The pent-up emotion behind this bill may unleash a stampede to county clerks’offices around the state. One Colorado, a group supporting civil unions, is coordinating statewide celebrations, including one in Grand Junction.
But even as we celebrate the victory for civil unions, the ultimate goal remains full marriage equality for gay and lesbian couples. The good news is that, according to a new poll, the people of Colorado are ready for the next step.
A new poll by Public Policy Polling finds that Coloradans support full, same-sex marriage rights by a margin of 50 to 38. Voters under the age of 30 support it by a 74-17 margin. The poll also found that “50 percent of Coloradans support the state’s recent passage of the civil unions bill ... Fifty-one percent of those surveyed said they would support same-sex marriage.”
The biggest civil union celebration was scheduled to begin in Denver, at 10:30 yesterday evening. At midnight, the Denver Clerk and Recorder’s office was to be open to issue licenses for civil unions until three in the morning. After midnight, Mayor Michael Hancock was to begin presiding over ceremonies uniting couples. He was expected to be assisted by volunteer officials and ministers to handle the expected crowd.
Tonight, according to One Colorado, the celebration will move to Grand Junction. Ceremonies will be held from 6:30 to 8:30 in the Center for Independence, 740 Gunnison Ave. Everyone is welcome to celebrate this victory with their friends, family, loved ones and the gay and lesbian community.
The Mesa County Clerk’s office does not expect a major spike in applications, according to a department spokesperson. However, the office is prepared to handle all applicants who apply, regardless of numbers. Any couples wishing to participate in the One Colorado event, or any private ceremony, should have no difficulty securing a license from the county.
With the U.S. Supreme Court bearing down on a decision over the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act, which defined marriage as a union of one man and one woman, civil unions could become obsolete in the near future.
If the Supreme Court overturns the Defense of Marriage Act with a sweeping redefinition of marriage to include same-sex relationships, the situation could change significantly.
But few court observers expect such a sweeping ruling. With Justice Anthony Kennedy — who wrote the decision striking down Colorado’s Amendment 2 — likely to cast the deciding vote, it seems very probable the right to define marriage will be reserved to the states.
But whatever the future holds for same-sex couples, civil unions are an important victory for civil rights in Colorado today. An impressive turnout at the victory celebration at the Center for Independence tonight will send a clear message that the Western Slope affirms the right of all Coloradans to live their private lives with partners of their choice.
So, turn out tonight to share a piece of the luscious rainbow-layered cake pictured on the One Colorado website, and embrace our family, friends and neighbors.And don’t forget the rice!