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House Committee Debates Civil Union Bill At State Capitol

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Supporters of the civil union bill being debated in the state House gather outside the state Capitol Thursday morning (credit: CBS)

Supporters of the civil union bill being debated in the state House gather outside the state Capitol Thursday morning (credit: CBS)

DENVER (CBS4)- State lawmakers are debating a crucial vote regarding gay rights. A House committee is discussing a civil unions bill that could keep lawmakers up late into the night.

If passed, same-sex couples would have equal rights for state taxes, health care decisions, guardianship and parental rights.

The vote is happening in the same committee where a similar civil unions bill died last year on a party line vote. This year may be different.

Two Republicans on the Judiciary Committee said they may change their vote. If the bill makes it to the House floor, it could pass because at least a half dozen Republicans in the House are supporting the measure for the first time this year.

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock spoke at a rally Thursday calling for the civil unions bill to become law in Colorado. Supporters carried signs and chanted slogans urging state lawmakers to bring equality to Colorado.

“Man, is it hop up here and this is the same kind of heat going on in the Judiciary in the House today,” said Hancock.

For some, the battle isn’t political, but personal.

“All of this legal paperwork we’ve spent thousands of dollars amassing, but there are still things we can’t get. Rights that civil unions would provide,” said civil union supporter Fran Simons.

“There are indications we do have a real chance this year,” said civil union supporter Anna Simons.

It will all come down to two Republicans on the Judiciary Committee who are undecided.

One of them is Rep. BJ Nikkel, “It’s an important issue to everybody really.”

But Republican leadership remains opposed to the measure.

House Majority Leader Amy Stephens controls when bills are heard on the floor and with just four days left in the session, she could allow this one to die.

“I do believe, should this bill go forward, there will definitely be a challenge to marriage because we’ve seen it in other states,” said Stephens.

If the bill survives its hearing in the Judiciary Committee, it will then need to pass the Finance and Appropriations Committees before going to the full House floor.

Both of those committees include Republicans who will vote for the bill but the majority leader controls when the bills are heard.

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