Colorado lawmaker plans to introduce civil-unions bill
December 16, 2010
Posted by Lynn Bartels on denverpost.com:
"A state lawmaker plans to introduce a bill next year that would make Colorado the fourth state to recognize civil unions.
"Sen. Pat Steadman, D-Denver, said he believes the majority of Coloradans support civil unions and oppose gays being treated unfairly.
"Steadman, who is gay, said he expects his proposal to pass the Democratic-controlled Senate, but he's not sure what kind of reception the idea will get in the Republican-controlled House.
"It could be a frosty one, said the speaker-elect, Rep. Frank McNulty, who noted Coloradans rejected a similar proposal four years ago.
"I think that kind of bill would be of concern with the vast majority of the members of our caucus," the Highlands Ranch Republican said.
"But Rep. Kevin Priola, R-Henderson, who will be the speaker pro tem next year, said he supports civil unions ...
"However, he added, he would have to read the bill before he decides where he stands.
"Republicans hold only a 33-32 majority in the House, and Steadman believes his bill has a good chance of passing if it goes before the full body. The question, he said, is what committee will be assigned to hear the bill.
"Parties in power traditionally have what are known as 'kill committees,' where certain bills from the minority party go to die, never reaching the floor.
"McNulty said the civil-unions bill would get a fair hearing no matter where it was assigned.
"'We look forward to a robust discussion,' he said. 'Our focus is on job creation and economic recovery, but other bills are going to come up, and we'll consider them.'
"Steadman's proposal can expect opposition from Citizen Link, an affiliation of Focus on the Family in Colorado Springs.
"'We could not support a law that undermines marriage, and that's exactly what civil unions do,' said Jenny Tyree of Citizen Link. 'This is a steppingstone to one thing only, and that's redefining marriage, and that has happened in other states.'
... "Voters in 2006 also rejected Referendum I, which would have granted gay couples many of the legal rights and responsibilities of married couples.
"But the executive director of a gay-rights group, One Colorado, said voters' attitudes have changed since then.
"Brad Clark cited a poll done in January by Greenberg Quilan Rosner that showed 72 percent of Coloradans support 'legal recognition' for gay couples.
"Two states, Vermont and New Jersey, currently recognize civil unions. Also, the Illinois legislature this month approved a bill allowing civil unions, and the governor has indicated he will sign it.
"Colorado currently is designated by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force as a state with 'limited relationship recognition laws.'
"That's because the legislature in 2009 passed a bill allowing unmarried couples the right to enter into 'designated beneficiary agreements,' which guarantee some of the rights usually reserved for husbands and wives, such as inheritance protections in the absence of a will.
"Steadman, who in February will have been with his partner 10 years, said a number of his constituents believe civil unions are one of the 'pressing issues of the day.'
"'They think we have really progressed in our attitude toward gay and lesbian couples and our recognition that current law discriminates against them and disadvantages them,' he said.
"Civil unions accord same-sex couples some of the same rights and responsibilities as other 'committed couples,' including custody-and-support issues if a relationship ends, he said.
"Civil unions are not the same as marriage, Steadman said. For example, they don't allow for Social Security survivor benefits, and couples would not be eligible for tax benefits allowed in traditional marriages.
"When Republicans controlled the legislature, they were accused of being obsessed with 'God, guns and gays' and ignoring economic issues. Couldn't, Steadman was asked, the same be said of Democrats with this bill?
"'They picked a fight to score political points,' he said. 'This isn't about picking a fight with someone to score political points. It's about righting a wrong and making our laws more fair.'"
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