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Senate Gives Initial Approval to Civil Unions Legislation

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After an emotional debate, a bill to allow civil unions initially passed the state senate on Friday. The vote was largely divided along party lines.

Bill sponsor, Senator Pat Steadman (D-Denver), got choked up outlining his support for civil unions. During a 20 minute speech he evoked the memory of his longtime partner, who he lost to cancer over the summer.

“Love is all that matters. Two people finding love. Senate Bill 11 is for lovers and the gifts they give to one another. If two people are lucky enough to find each other why should Colorado stand in their way.”

Passing civil unions has been a top priority for Democrats; especially after last year when Republican’s in the house blocked a vote on the measure which had enough support to clear the chamber. Republicans offered an amendment to allow churches and private businesses run with religious values to deny services to people in civil unions.

“Every argument I’ve hear in support of this bill has appealed to equal rights for all,” said Senator Owen Hill (R-Colorado Springs). “To continue with this bill in a way penalizes citizens  who are acting in accordance with strong religious freedoms violates the very nature of the argument for the bill in the first place.”

But Democrats struck down Hill’s proposal calling it unjust and saying it would create the right to discriminate. They also defeated other GOP amendments to weaken the bill. Most Republicans object to civil unions saying they are too similar to marriage and would undermine the traditional family unit.

The measure will be up for a final Senate vote on Monday. It’s expected to easily pass the  Democratic controlled house.

Bente Birkeland has been reporting on state legislative issues for KUNC and Rocky Mountain Community Radio since 2006. Originally, from Minnesota, Bente likes to hike and ski in her spare time. She keeps track of state politics throughout the year but is especially busy during the annual legislative session from January through early May.
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