I’m very passionate about a lot of issues, but no bill that I’ve carried has sparked the amount of passion as Civil Unions. It was heartbreaking to watch the House Judiciary Committee kill this bill in 2011, and immediately afterwards I vowed to bring back the legislation each year until it is finally passed. I’m cautiously hopeful that 2012 will be the year.
SB 2 was introduced on the first day of the legislative session. It differs only slightly from the bill I introduced last year, mostly small improvements to the drafting and a correction where one word had been omitted. It has been referred once again to the Senate Judiciary Committee, which last year approved the bill on a vote of 6 to 3. The Senate then passed the bill on a vote of 23 to 12.
As authorized by SB 2, Civil Unions would allow any 2 unmarried adults, regardless of gender, to form a legally-recognized, committed relationship subject to most of the provisions in state law that apply to married couples. The bill recites our current constitutional ban on marriages between persons of the same sex and clearly states that Civil Unions are not marriages. I readily admit that they are not equal to marriage and confer fewer rights on the couples that choose them.
A legally-recognized relationship matters. It matters a great deal. Legal recognition means that Colorado laws will apply, which is especially important at various times in everyone’s life, such as medical emergencies, the birth of a child, the end of a relationship, end-of-life decisions, and death. Whether an ambulance is on its way to the emergency room, decisions are being made about placement in an Alzheimer’s unit at a nursing home, or plans for burial or cremation are being carried out, a legally-recognized relationship ensures that the person who cares most, who you most want to be there and make decisions, will be first in line to exercise powers controlled by state law.
SB 2 is quite detailed and carefully crafted to spell out all the provisions in state law that will apply to couples in a Civil Union. I like to point out that SB 2 makes very little new law – it creates forms and procedures for forming a Civil Union – but instead makes applicable the provisions of existing law to a class of persons previously excluded from their protections and benefits.
SB 2 is about inclusion and opportunity. It empowers personal responsibility. It creates a bond of commitment between two people that only legal proceedings under the provisions of Colorado law may set aside. It gives access to important legal protections and basic legal rights that are often taken for granted by those that have them and desperately needed by those without them. It will strengthen families and protect children across Colorado.
Last year Rep. Mark Ferrandino was the House sponsor of the Civil Unions bill. This year I’ve introduced the bill without listing a House sponsor in the hopes of finding a Republican member of the House to step up and take the lead. So far those I’ve asked have declined, but I’m holding out hope. A new group of Republican leaders has formed to support this type of legislation (Coloradans for Freedom), and I’m hopeful that a brave and willing Republican sponsor can yet be found. If not, Rep. Ferrandino stands ready to carry the bill again. If it makes it to the floor of the House of Representatives we know that more than a handful of Republicans will join their Democratic colleagues to pass the bill, but it could once again be bottled-up in committee and die a cruel death. This will be one of the most closely watched bills of the session, so stay tuned.
To get more involved in the effort to pass Civil Unions in Colorado visit www.One-Colorado.org