Civil Union Act debate begins: Senator Pat Steadman says public is ready for measure

Today at 1:30 p.m., the senate judiciary committee and members of the public will begin discussing Senate Bill 172, the Colorado Civil Union Act, co-sponsored by Senator Pat Steadman: Read it below. Back in 2006, Colorado voters rejected a referendum that would have established many of the same principles upon which SB 172 is based even as they okayed an amendment defining marriage as a bond between one man and one woman. Does Steadman feel optimistic despite these setbacks? His answer: "Of course."

In Steadman's view, "This is something that's very overdue. In two recent opinion polls, 72 percent of Coloradans said they support a law like this. I think that tells us the public is more than ready for it. And I"ve had an overwhelming response from my constituents and people across the state who are very hopeful that this rule becomes law, so that their families and children can have the same protection as other families across Colorado."

For instance, he continues, "there are a lot of protections in the probate court that protect you in times of incapacity or upon the death of a partner that apply automatically to married couples. But they can be rather inconvenient or sometimes impossible for unmarried couples to achieve."

Politicians have had just as tough a time getting a gay marriage law passed in Colorado -- and in some ways, civil unions set up a separate-but-equal system that can be equated to school segregation.

If he he had his druthers, then, would Steadman prefer a gay marriage law to one legalizing civil unions? He jokes that "the constitution doesn't allow me my druthers" before saying, "I'm fairly confident the language in our state constitution will not stand the test of time." In the meantime, though, he clearly believes civil unions are far preferable to the status quo. "This is something we can do right now to provide very meaningful protections to families and children," he maintains.

He expects to hear from many civil union supporters this afternoon, and he's upbeat about SB 172's odds of approval in the senate, where Democrats hold a solid majority. "But I'm not quite sure what's going to happen when this bill gets over the House of Representatives," he concedes. "That's something I don't have a lot of control over."

Not that he lacks faith in the measure's house sponsor, Mark Ferrandino. "I'm sure he's going to fight very hard," he says -- and he's hopeful some Republicans will ultimately back the bill. But he concedes that "there are some shrill voices on the extremes that aren't there yet. They'd rather play politics with it."

Page down to read SB 172 in its entirety, as well as to see a video and news release from One Colorado, a civil-unions backer.

Colorado Civil Union Act:

One Colorado video:

One Colorado news release:

Coalition of 130 Faith Leaders Supports Creating Civil Unions in Colorado

One hundred thirty faith leaders and nearly 30 religious organizations have committed their support to a civil unions bill that will provide thousands of gay and lesbian couples in Colorado with the critical legal protections they need to take care of and be responsible for each other.

"This broad coalition crosses faith and denominational boundaries and unites all people of faith. Faith leaders all across Colorado recognize that civil unions honor the loving commitment between two people and provide the legal protections they need to care for one another," said Brad Clark, Executive Director, One Colorado.

One Colorado, through a partnership with the Interfaith Alliance of Colorado developed this statewide coalition of faith-based support for civil unions and announced it at a press conference with four faith leaders today.

"As people of faith, we believe that a family is best defined by love and commitment, not the gender of two loving people," said Jeremy Shaver, Executive Director, Interfaith Alliance of Colorado and Director of Christian Education, Park Hill Congregational Church, Denver. "We believe the love and commitment shared by two people deserves the same legal rights, responsibilities, and protections as other loving relationships."

"In my pastoral role, and among my friends, I have seen many examples firsthand of the beauty, joy, and love found within committed same-sex relationships; and I have also heard the stories of pain and tears, from families who have faced legal barriers to living out their commitments in hospitals, in adoption courts, and after a loved one's death," said the Rev. Kerry Greenhill, associate pastor at Highlands United Methodist Church in Denver. "The Colorado legislature has the opportunity now to reduce some of those barriers, to end discrimination and injustice and the pain that they cause, by providing legal protections to more committed couples."

The Faithful Voices for Strong Families Coalition dispels the far too common myth that people of faith do not support relationship recognition for committed gay and lesbian couples. In fact, a 2010 poll of Colorado voters conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner found that 70% of Catholics, 67% of Protestants, and 55% of "born again Christians" support civil unions.

More from our News archive: "Civil unions: LGBT organization One Colorado kicks off campaign to legalize them (VIDEO)."

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts