Colorado Civil Unions Bill Passes Second Reading In Senate

The Colorado Senate approved a bill on second reading Wednesday morning that would establish Civil Unions for gay couples in the state.

Senate Bill 172--sponsored by Denver Democrat Pat Steadman--would "authorize any 2 unmarried adults, regardless of gender, to enter into a civil union" that would ensure them eligibility for public assistance benefits, rights to visit one another in a correctional facility, and the ability to inherit property, among other rights.

The approval came after an emotional debate Monday morning during which Steadman, who is gay, called the bill essential for ensuring "very basic, but very important legal protections... that no family should be without."

Republican Kevin Lundberg, who voted against SB 172, said the bill "would change the very concept of what marriage is."

"This is not in line with what the people of Colorado have called for... [It's] not in line with the spirit of the constitution," Lundberg said in referencing a 2006 ballot initiative that defined marriage as between one man and one woman. The initiative passed with 55 percent of the vote.

The Civil Unions Act, as SB 172 is being called, would definitively not establish gay marriage rights in Colorado, but rather a distinct legal partnership that would allow gay couples to take advantage of some of the benefits that married couples enjoy.

Nonetheless, Lundberg expressed doubts over the constitutionality of the bill.

"Civil Unons are, in fact, as close to marriage we can come to marriage in Colorado," he said. "That is the fundamental problem and point as I can see it."

Recent public polling has suggested that 70% of Coloradans support some kind of legally recognized domestic partnerships for gay couples.

The bill faces one more vote in the Senate before moving to the Republican-controlled House, where it figures to face stronger opposition than in the Democratic Senate.

The Colorado Statesman's Ernest Luning tweeted a quote from Republican House Speaker Frank McNulty, who promised a fair hearing for the bill in the House.

"When we get it, we will assign it to committee and wherever it's assigned, it will receive a fair hearing," McNulty said.