Civil Unions Clear Colo. Legislature, Head to Gov
Civil unions for gay couples was a rallying cry for Democrats who took control of the Colorado House in last year’s elections and vowed an early vote on the proposal. They kept their promise Tuesday, passing a bill that now goes to the governor’s desk, where it’s expected to be signed.
The vote punctuates a dramatic political shift in Colorado, where voters approved a gay-marriage ban seven years ago - meaning civil unions are the only option for gay couples in the state for now. That could change with a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage bans in the coming months.
"We really do stand on the edge of history," said Democratic Rep. Pete Lee. "For some in this chamber, this is the reason why we are here."
Applause erupted as the bill won final passage Tuesday on a 39-26 House vote, with two Republicans joining all Democrats to approve it.
Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper has said he plans to sign civil unions into law. It’s not clear yet when that will happen, but the law will take effect May 1.
Once the measure is signed, Colorado will join a dozen other states that have civil unions or similar laws. Six states allow gay marriage.
The bill’s approval underscores the changing political climate in a western state that traditionally has had deep conservative roots but has become more moderate over the past decade.
In 1992, Colorado voters approved a ban on municipal anti-discrimination laws to protect gays. Four years later, the U.S. Supreme Court said the law, known as Amendment 2, was unconstitutional, but not before some branded Colorado a "hate state."