Colorado lawmakers on Tuesday approved a bill to legalize civil unions for same-sex couples, a historic move that follows years of debate over LGBT rights in the state.
The bill passed in both the Senate and the House, and Gov. John Hickenlooper has said he’ll sign the measure into law. It’s expected to take effect May 1st. A similar bill died last year in the then-Republican-controlled House, but Colorado Democrats made LGBT rights a priority when they regained control of the House in November.
Colorado’s troubled history of LGBT discrimination dates back even further than the previous state legislature, though, making this move all the more significant. According to the Huffington Post:
The vote marks a dramatic political shift in Colorado, a western state with deep conservative roots that has become more moderate over the past decade. In 1992, Colorado voters approved a ban on municipal antidiscrimination laws to protect gays. Four years later, the U.S. Supreme Court said the law, known as Amendment 2, was unconstitutional, but not before some branded Colorado a “hate state.”
And in 2006, voters approved a gay-marriage ban — meaning civil unions are the only option for gay couples in the state for now. That could change with a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage bans in the coming months.
Not surprisingly, religious opponents of same-sex unions say their beliefs are being disrespected. The Denver Post reports that Rep. Bob Gardner, the Republican leading the opposition, said the bill “infringes the free exercise of religion and moral conscience.” Commenting subtly on the November elections, another Republican, former House speaker Rep. Frank McNulty, simply said, “Elections have consequences.”
Republicans opposed the bill, saying they would’ve liked to see religious exemptions to provide legal protections for those opposed to civil unions.
“I have long-standing concerns about the way in which religion isn’t tolerated by some down here at the state Capitol,” McNulty said. “I continue to have those concerns.”
Some others didn’t even bother to mask their bigotry:
One of the most vocal opponents of the measure, Rep. Lori Saine, R-Dacono, repeatedly mentioned religious references to civil unions.
“What this bill is about, really, is the Bible. Is it right or wrong?” she said.
Haters aside, Coloradans gay and straight are rightfully thrilled about this huge step toward full equality. As the Supreme Court prepares to decide on the constitutionality of anti-gay-marriage measures like DOMA and Proposition 8, the best might be yet to come.
“This has been a long time coming,” said Jeff Ball, who was at the Capitol on Tuesday with his partner. “We wanted to feel like we’re a part our own state.”