April 27, 2012
By Jacob Combs
As expected, the Colorado Senate last note approved a civil union bill with bipartisan support on a third and final vote of 23-12. All 20 Democrats voted for the legislation, joined by the chamber’s three female Republican Senators. Although the state’s constitution prohibits marriage equality, the Colorado Civil Unions Act would provide gay and lesbian couples with many of the legal rights that heterosexual married couples enjoy.
Republican Senator Ellen Roberts said she hoped the vote would undo some of the damage of Amendment 2, a successful 1992 ballot measure prohibiting any of the state’s three branches of government from recognizing gays as a protected class. The measure was struck down in the landmark Supreme Court decision of Romer v. Evans. Speaking to OutFront Colorado, Sen. Roberts said:
“In 1992, when Amendment 2 passed, I was stopped in my tracks,” she said. “It was a punch in my stomach. (Passing civil unions) will restore your’s, mine and Colorado’s collective soul we lost in the 1990s.”
The legislation, which also passed the Colorado Senate last year, now moves to the House of Representatives. Last year’s bill was killed by a House panel on a 6-5 party line vote, and was never considered in committee or by the full chamber. The bill will likely suffer the same fate this year: the Colorado Observer reports that Assistant House Majority Leader Mark Waller, a Republican, said the bill would be killed as written now. Remarkably, Waller was quoted indirectly in the Observer as saying the bill ”would create a special class of citizens under Colorado law that does not conform to federal laws.” A Republican spokesman later told OutFront that Waller was “misquoted” and that the bill will get a fair hearing.
The civil unions bill will likely be quickly assigned to the House Judiciary Committee, where it will be scheduled for consideration next week.