DENVER (AP) – Civil unions for gay couples moved forward in the Colorado Senate Friday, legislation that is all but certain to become law as some Republicans raise concern about religious freedoms.
Denver Democratic Sen. Pat Steadman sounded emotional at times when he pitched Senate Bill 11 to his colleagues. Steadman’s longtime partner died of cancer last year.
“Senate Bill 11 is for those of you who are lucky enough to have someone, to love someone. Or lucky enough to find that person, someone that you will share the rest of your life with,” Steadman said.
The Senate controlled by Democrats gave initial approval to the bill Friday on a preliminary vote, with one Republican joining them. One more vote will send the bill to the House, possibly as soon as next week.
The Senate has passed the bill the past two years, but Republicans defeated the measure in the House both times. Democrats now control both chambers after the November elections, and they vow speedy approval of the bill, seven years after voters banned gay marriage.
Republicans are resigned to the bill’s passage, and some of them acknowledged as much when they spoke in front of their colleagues in the Senate.
One lawmaker who opposes the bill, Parker Republican Sen. Mark Scheffel, applauded Democrats for how they handled the debate, even though they know the ending.
“In the face of apparent defeat in the past I’ve seen nothing but humility and grace and quiet resolve,” he said. “And now in the face of apparent victory, I see nothing but humility, grace, and continued resolve. For that, I applaud you and thank you.”
Civil unions would grant gay couples rights similar to marriage, including enhanced inheritance and parental rights, among others. They would also have the ability to make medical decisions for their partners.
More than a dozen states allow either civil unions or gay marriage.
Republicans argue Colorado’s measure could infringe on religious beliefs. They tried to amend the bill to provide legal protection to people and groups that disagree with civil unions and don’t want to provide certain services.
“Equal rights cannot be extended to gays and lesbians by taking religious freedom away from others,” said Colorado Springs Republican Sen. Owen Hill.
Democratic Sen. Lucia Guzan, who is lesbian, told legislators that gays don’t have access to some legal protections that heterosexual couples do.
“That’s what we don’t have right now. We are not part of the law of the land. Soon we will be,” she said.
By IVAN MORENO, Associated Press
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