Civil unions bill passes Senate, heads to House

Last May, a civil-unions bill died an ugly death in the Colorado House of Representatives, alternately frustrating and pissing off backers. But this year appears to be a very different story.

A short time ago, the state senate approved the Pat Steadman-sponsored measure -- and while that happened in 2012, too, the leadership switch in the House from Republicans to Democrats bodes well for passage in that chamber as well.

When the Colorado Civil Unions Act was introduced in late January, One Colorado deputy director Jace Woodrum didn't want to make its success seem preordained. As he told our Charles Trowbridge, "The bill will be heard in three committees in the senate and three in the house, and it has to be debated both on the floor of the senate and the floor of the house. But we're excited to begin making our case to lawmakers for why this is important and why this should be passed into law."

The attributes of the bill highlighted by the Colorado Senate Majority include:

• Responsibility to financially support one another

• Property rights

• Protections against discrimination based upon spousal status

• Rights within the probate laws

• The ability to adopt a partner's child

• Protections under domestic violence laws

• Legal rights relating to medical care and treatment and hospital visitation

• Eligibility for family leave benefits

• Other rights and responsibilities

For years, Steadman, who's sponsoring the 2013 version of the act with Speaker of the House Mark Ferrandino and Senator Lucia Guzman, has preached bipartisanship when it comes to civil unions, and tried to practice it, too. Last January, for instance, he struggled for months to line up a Republican co-sponsor in the House, but to no avail -- and the latest edition hasn't become a GOP favorite, either. While the Senate passed the act by a healthy margin, 21-14, only one Republican senator -- Ellen Roberts, representing Durango -- voted in favor of it.

Still, the tactics that killed civil-union proposals in recent years -- bottling measures up in Republican-controlled committees, thereby preventing them from reaching the floor -- won't work this time around. With Democrats in the majority, they should be able to guide the legislation through the thicket of Republican objections and route it to the desk of Governor John Hickenlooper, who's on record as being in favor of the concept.

Not that Steadman has declared victory. "Today is a pivotal point in the battle for equal rights for all Colorado families," he said in a statement. "I am proud and humbled to have been a part of this historic vote."

Adds Guzman: "All families should be supported and protected under the law of Colorado. This bill does that."

More from our Politics archive circa January 2012: "Civil unions bill could fail again unless Republican supporters step up."

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