NewEra Colorado rallies young voters in support of civil unions

Four out of five Coloradans under 30 support same-sex civil unions. In four years those young people will cast one of every three votes cast in Colorado. “When we vote, people listen,” said one of the speakers from youth-voter group NewEra Colorado at a Wednesday rally at the University of Colorado Denver in support of the civil unions bill introduced in the state legislature by Sen. Pat Steadman, D-Denver, last month. “We want equality and the time is now. We want the next generation to never even have to think about this. They’ll just see that everyone is the same.”

At the rally, NewEra announced it had gathered more than 1000 petitions from young voters asking lawmakers to support the bill.

Steadman’s SB 172 would grant gay and straight couples entering into civil unions the same legal rights and responsibilities extended to married couples, including the right to share insurance policies and benefits and make medical and inheritance decisions. It would also mean unmarried couples could more easily adopt children and that they would be required to arrange for child visitation and child payments should relationships dissolve.

Denver Democratic Rep. Dan Pabon, one of the youngest lawmakers serving in the state capitol, told the small crowd gathered in the Auraria commons that many of the lawmakers he serves with are retirees and see the world through a different lens.

“It can take so much effort and energy to explain how I stand on an issue like this,” he said. “This is something that is just a basic civil rights issue to us.”

He said gay rights has been a youth cause for decades and that it has moved ahead swiftly with each new generation. He said it was young gay men in New York at the Stonewall club who in standing up to police kick-started the public movement for gay rights in 1969 and he pointed out that the first gay pride parade was held just 39 years ago. “Now we take gay pride for granted,” he said. “We know there is inequality.”

Recent polls have registered roughly 72 percent support among all Colorado voters for civl unions.

Steadman’s bill has passed out of two Senate committees and is headed in the coming weeks to the Senate floor for debate, where the majority Democrats will surely pass it. Primary House sponsor Mark Ferrandino, D-Denver, has said he is confident the bill will pass in the House if it makes it out of committee. Committees generally vet bills, the members often requiring tweaks and amendments to satisfy concerns. All it would take, however, is five or six lawmakers to oppose the bill in one of the Republican-controlled House committees and it would never make it to the House floor for debate and roll call voting.

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