DENVER (AP/CBS4) – Denver Mayor Michael Hancock marked the first year of civil unions in Colorado with a reception for gay couples at the city’s clerk and recorder office.

Denver has issued 859 licenses for civil unions since the law took effect May 1 last year. That’s many more than other Front Range counties. El Paso issued 289, Jefferson 209, and Boulder 205.

(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

A statewide total was not immediately available.

“About a month ago there were several couples who came in. I had to deny them. That was heartbreaking. So as an elected official and as a mother I see this as a beginning. As the State of Colorado we can do better,” said Denver Clerk & Recorder Debra Johnson.

Colorado bans same-sex marriage. But civil unions grant gay couples rights similar to marriage, including enhanced inheritance and parental rights. People in civil unions also have the ability to make medical decisions for their partners.

Hancock said Thursday that Colorado “has made great strides toward bringing down the walls that divide.”

A poll by Quinnipiac University found the majority of Colorado voters support gay marriage with 61 percent of those polled are in favor of it with 33 percent against.

LINK: Quinnipiac University Poll

(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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