Ritter signs bill granting gay health care benefits ‘in the dark of night’

Without fanfare or even a mention, Gov. Bill Ritter sometime on Monday “quietly” signed into law Senate Bill 88, which extends health insurance benefits to gay and lesbian domestic partners of state employees, The Denver Post’s John Ingold reports.

It’s the same way Ritter, a Democrat, has signed two other gay-rights bills in the last two years, Ingold points out, on a Monday “with scant public notice.”

Ritter said earlier this month he would probably sign the bill, but the gay-rights bill wasn’t listed on numerous recent press releases announcing the governor’s plans to sign everything from a bill “to help kids with food allergies” to a bill that “clarifies the existing statute concerning aggregating multiple charges of theft.”

Last Friday alone, according to a press release from the governor’s office, Ritter signed eight different bills in three separate ceremonies held at a school in Lakewood and in the foyer of the State Capitol.

Ingold doesn’t say where Ritter signed the gay-rights bill.

The governor signs a lot of bills without making a fuss about it, Ritter’s spokesman said.

The bill’s House sponsor, state Rep. Mark Ferrandino, wasn’t aware his bill had been signed until the Post reporter contacted him Wednesday, but the Denver Democrat said he nonetheless was pleased, Ingold reports.

The legislative director for Colorado Family Action, a local subsidiary of Focus on the Family, cried foul.

“We have no doubt the governor and fellow Colorado legislators heard vehement opposition from their constituents in regards to this bill,” said Jessica Langfeldt in a statement. “If the signing of Senate Bill 88 did not disregard the desires of the people, why was it signed in the dark of the night?”

Focus on the Family and another local spin-off ran radio ads opposing the same-sex benefits bill earlier this year, arguing it would be imprudent during a “global economic crisis.” Legislative estimates pegged the cost to the state at roughly $150,000 annually.

“Coloradans can’t afford this social experiment,” the conservative religious group pronounced, to no avail.

Under the new law, partners of state employees who swear they’ve been in a committed relationship for at least a year would be eligible to share health-care benefits with same-sex partners.

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