Ft Collins Coloradoan to Judiciary Committee: Send civil unions bill to House floor

This afternoon the state House Judiciary Committee will review Sen. Pat Steadman’s civil unions bill and decide whether or not to send it to the full House for debate and roll call vote. The Fort Collins Coloradoan is the home paper for two of the majority Republicans on the committee, B.J. Nikkel and Brian DelGrosso, both of Loveland, and this morning the Coloradoan joined with newspaper editorial boards across the state in endorsing the bill. It urged committee members to “shelve the debate over same-sex marriage” and think instead about “provid[ing] equal protection under the law for those who seek to form a committed, legal relationship.”

“Simply put, sexual orientation is none of the Legislature’s business, but ensuring fairness and fundamental rights for all, indeed, is its responsibility,” the editors write. “That responsibility only reinforces the need for the state to remove barriers to civil unions. Common sense and fairness also dictate that those who enter into civil unions should most certainly have the same ability as others to make medical decisions and purchase insurance and retirement benefits as all other couples.”

Senate Bill 11-172 authorizes any two unmarried adults, regardless of gender, to enter into a civil union, which will be registered through county clerks. Couples then will be issued civil union licenses.

Opponents like to cite the defeat of a 2006 ballot measure in Colorado that sought to legalize same-sex marriage as a reason to oppose this measure, figuring they are upholding voter wishes. But the bill specifically states, “The general assembly finds that the ‘Colorado Civil Union Act’ does not alter the public policy of this state, which recognizes only the union of one man and one woman as a marriage.”

The legislation also notes that civil unions are created through legal documents issued through the state process with no need for religious certification.

Republican lawmakers hold a six to five majority on the House Judiciary Committee. Democrats favor advancing the bill. The Republicans have said that, even though they oppose civil unions for gay couples, they will give the bill a fair hearing. The bill, SB 172, has drawn much media attention and bipartisan support. More than 70 percent of Coloradans support the bill. House sponsor Mark Ferrandino has said enough Republican support the bill that it would pass in the House, where Republicans hold a one-seat majority.

[ Image: Rep. B.J. Nikkel ]

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