Same sex civil unions & same-sex marriages (SSM) in Colorado
Part 5: 2013-FEB/MAR: Three House committees & the
full House approve civil unions Senate Bill 11. Governor
signs bill into law.
This topic is continued from the previous essay
2013-FEB-28: House Judiciary Committee advanced the civil unions bill SB 11:
After over five hours of testimony, the civil unions bill titled "Colorado Civil Union Act," comfortably passed the House Judiciary Committee with a vote of 8 to 3. If it becomes law, it will grant state rights and protections to registered same-sex couple similar to those routinely enjoyed by opposite-sex married couples. However, they will not receive what is perhaps the most important right of all to many couples: the right to call their relationship a marriage. 1
Only one Republican, Rep. Carole Murray, voted for the bill. She expressed concern that the bill does not provide legal protections for some people and agencies who want to discriminate against lesbians, gays and bisexuals. However, she said:
"Most important, as my upbringing has taught me, it’s not for me to judge others, but to leave that up to God. While on earth, Jesus asked us to love one another. In this spirit, I will be a 'yes' vote." 7
2013-MAR-06: House Finance Committee advanced the civil unions bill:
The House Finance Committee passed the civil unions bill with a vote of 7 to 6; all 7 Democrats voted in favor; all 6 Republicans voted against it.
Republicans attempted to add an amendment to the bill that would allow Catholic Charities in the state to discriminate against same-sex couples in adoption services. The Catholic Church considers homosexual orientation to be a disordered state and is opposed to same-sex marriage, civil unions, and same-sex parents raising children. The amendment did not pass. 2
2013-MAR-08: House Appropriations Committee advanced the civil unions bill:
The House Appropriations Committee passed the civil unions bill with a vote of 9 to 4. One Republican, Cheri Cerou, a co-sponsor of the bill, joined with all of the Democrats on the committee to vote in favor of the bill. The remaining 4 Republicans all voted against the bill.
House Speaker Mark Ferrandino issued a statement saying:
"There are families throughout Colorado, including my own, who are living the same as any family but lack the legal safeguards and recognition afforded to everyone else. These committed couples want civil unions to uphold the values we all hold dear: commitment to others, stability, responsibility, and, most importantly, family."
Brad Clark of One Colorado -- a LGBT-positive group -- issued a statement saying:
"We applaud the members of the House Appropriations Committee who voted to affirm that all families are worthy of respect. We look forward to bipartisan passage on the floor of the House." 3
Having passed all three House Committees, the bill now goes to the full House.
2013-MAR-12: Full house passes civil union bill:
Civil union legislation had to be introduced into the Legislature three times before it was finally allowed to be voted upon by the full House. The Advocate commented:
"Last year, the bill passed the Senate and two House committees with bipartisan support, but Republican leadership refused to allow the bill to come to a floor vote in a dramatic procedural move that shut down the legislature on the last day of the session." 3
The only way in which the Republicans could prevent the bill from being voted upon and passed in 2012 was to terminate the session of the legislature. By resorting to this action, they prevented some 30 other pieces of legislation from being debated and voted upon.
Speaker of the House Rep. Mark Ferrandino, D-Denver, who is openly gay, said:
"This bill is about three simple things: It's about love, it's about family, and it's about equality under the law." 5
Rep. Lori Saine (R) revealed that her personal religious beliefs played a major in her opposition to the bill. She said:
"What this bill is about, really is the Bible. Is it right or wrong?"
Some would argue that it is not really about the Bible. Rather it is Saine's interpretation of the six highly ambiguous "clobber" passages in the Bible. Many conservative Christians interpret these passages as condemning all same-gender sexual behavior and same-sex marriage. Many liberal Christians interpret the same passages as referring to the condemnation of same-sex rape, of homosexual prostitution in Pagan temples, of men sexually molesting boys, and of heterosexuals going against their basic sexual nature by engaging in same-gender sex.
Other House Republicans likened civil unions to same-sex marriage. As noted above, civil unions are not same-sex marriage because they are missing what is perhaps the main right given to married couples: the right to call their relationship a marriage. However, history has shown that civil unions are often a preliminary step leading to same-sex marriage. Voters in 2006 passed Amendment 43 to the state constitution that defines marriage as the union of one woman and one man. Thus the first step to legalizing same-sex marriages would be to repeal that amendment. The second step would be to pass new legislation to expand marriage to include same-sex couples.
Speaker Ferrandino said:
"Until the voters say otherwise, civil unions is the closest we can do as a General Assembly to make sure that all families are provided protections under the law."
The full House gave initial approval to Senate Bill 11 on a voice vote during its MAR-11th session. Final approval arrived the next day, on Tuesday, with a formal recorded vote. The bill passed by a vote of 39 to 26. All 37 Democrats and two Republicans voted for the bill; 26 Republicans voted against the bill. 4,5 Since it has previously passed the Senate, it is now on Governor John Hickenlooper's (D) desk. He has promised to sign the bill into law.
Same-sex couples may be able to register their relationships as civil unions as soon as 2012-MAY-01. 3 If the bill becomes law, Colorado will be the 9th state to make civil unions available to its gays and bisexuals. Also, nine states and the District of Columbia have legalized same-sex marriage. This makes 19 states that have given major rights and protections to same-sex couples and their children. That is inching close to one half of all states.
Cheri Gerou, (R) who was one of two Republicans supporting Senate Bill 11 said:
"What this bill is about is personal freedom and individual liberties. This is a good conservative bill."
Huffington Post has published a series of 13 photographs with captions of individuals involved in the civil unions debate in Colorado. 5
Public opinion poll among Colorado voters:
A public opinion poll was conducted by SurveyUSA and reported by the Denver Post on 2012-NOV-03. It is believed to be the most recent poll on the topic of same-sex marriage and civil unions in Colorado. A total of 770 adults were contacted by telephone -- both land lines and cell phones. The margin of error is ±3.6 percentage points. They were asked:
"What recognition should same-sex couples have in Colorado? No legal recognition at all? Legal recognition through civil unions? Or legal recognition through marriage?"
- 68% support some form of recognition:
- 36% supported marriage;
- 32% supported civil unions.
- 27% would deny all legal recognition.
- 6% were uncertain or did not respond. 6
There was the usual higher support by women compared to men; by young adults compared to the elderly, by Democrats compared to Republicans, and by Liberals compared to Conservatives, as seen in many other polls.
If the bill is signed into law, we can probably expect an updated survey soon asking a simpler question: whether adults support or oppose same-sex marriage.
2013-MAR-21: Governor Hickenlooper signs civil unions bill into law:
At the 3:15 PM ceremony, on the first full day of Spring, House Speaker Mark Ferrandino (D), who is openly gay, said:
"With the Governor's signature here today, the protection of Colorado's laws will now extend equally to all. Thousands of Colorado families will now be able to receive the recognition they deserve.
Ladies and gentlemen, the Colorado sun now warms all our people."
Rep. Sue Schafer, (D) who is openly a lesbian, said:
"After amendment 2, Colorado was known as 'The Hate State. Today, hate has been replaced by love, family, and equality. Today is historic because our families are stronger, our communities more inclusive, and by expanding equal rights to all Coloradans, our great state is greater.
Rep. Schafer's "hate" reference involves Amendment 2 which modified the Colorado Constitution to prohibit laws that protected the LGBT community from discrimination. It was declared unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1996.
Senator Pat Steadman (D) chose the location for the Governor's signing. He selected a new state facility at 1,200 Broadway because the word "history" is displayed on the building. Earlier, he also chose the number the bill Senate Bill 11. His partner, Dave Misner, died during 2012-SEP after a battle with pancreatic cancer. He was born on MAY-11, and they had been a couple for 11 years. After the bill passed the Legislature, Steadman wrote a poem:
"11 is a prime number.
Eleven is a lovely word.
It's binary; a pair of ones.
It's two like things, bound together,
to make a whole of ones."
Referring to same-sex marriage, Steadman said:
"Bit by bit, we've been making slow and steady progress and some day — not today — some day we're going to win the race,"
After the signing, Speaker Mark Ferrandino said:
"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." 8,9
Amber Fuentes, 21, of Lakewood, CO plans to enter a civil union with Yolanda Martinez, 34.Amber said:
"It means I can change my name finally. It's not marriage, but it still gives us a lot of the rights."
The Associated Press commented:
"Most Republicans opposed the bill, saying they would've liked to see religious exemptions to provide legal protections for those opposed to civil unions. Churches are shielded under the new law, but Democrats rejected protections for businesses and adoption agencies, arguing the Republican suggestions were too broad and could provide legal cover to discriminate." 10
Effective on MAR-01, same-sex couples should be able to obtain their civil unions in Colorado. This makes the:
- District of Columbia and nine states that have legalized same-sex marriage, and
- Nine states that have civil union or similar laws.
Almost 40% of the 51 political jurisdictions in the U.S. now recognize same-sex relationships by giving to same-sex couples all or most of the state's rights and protections that are received by opposite-sex married couples.
According to USA Today, the Colorado civil union law takes effect on 2013-MAY-01. 11
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- "Colo. civil unions pass House committee," Associated Press, 2013-MAR-01, at: http://www.nbc11news.com/
- Zack Ford, "Colorado House Finance Committee Advances Civil Unions," Think Progress, 2013-MAR-06, at: http://thinkprogress.org/
- Sunnivie Brydum, "Colorado Civil Unions Headed to House Floor," Advocate, 2013-MAR-08, at: http://www.advocate.com/
- Zack Ford, "Civil Unions To Become Law In Colorado After Final House Vote," Think Progress, 2013-MAR-12, at: http://thinkprogress.org/
- Matt Ferner, "Civil Unions Bill Passes Colorado House, Expected To Be Signed Into Law By Gov. John Hickenlooper," Huffington Post, 2013-MAR-12, at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/
- Lynn Bartels, "Poll: Majority of Coloradans back legal recognition for gay couples," The Denver Post, 2012-NOV-03, at: http://www.denverpost.com/
- Nic Garcia, "Colorado House committee approves civil union bill," LGBTQNATION, 2013-FEB-28, at: http://www.lgbtqnation.com/
- Lynn Bartels, "Colorado civil unions bill signed by Gov. John Hickenlooper at History Colorado Center," Denver Post, 2013-MAR-21, at: http://www.denverpost.com/
- Lynn Bartels,"Pat Steadman's gay-rights journey now includes civil unions," Denver Post, 2013-MAR-21, at: http://www.denverpost.com/
- "Colorado governor signs civil unions into law," Associated Press, 2013-MAR-21, at: http://www.foxnews.com
- Ivan Moreno," Civil unions signed into law in Colorado," USA Today, 2013-MAR-21, at: http://www.usatoday.com/
Copyright 2013 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance.
First posted: 2013-MAR-12
Latest update: 2013-MAR-22
Author: B.A. Robinson