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Now That It’s Legal, What’s Next For Civil Unions?

Daniel Gonzales - Soulforce
Flickr - Creative Commons

Continuing his week of ‘landmark’ signatures, Governor John Hickenlooper formally signed into law a bill legalizing civil unions for same sex couples Thursday.

Now that civil unions are legal, the real work gets underway.

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender advocacy groups have been busy working with government agencies and civic leaders preparing for the expected rush of same sex couples lining up for a civil union. The bill takes effect on May 1st, just 40 days away.

"I mean, this is a real thing and people are going to be legally tied to one another if they do choose to enter a civil union."

Brad Clark, president of the LGBT advocacy group One Colorado says it’s been a long time coming. “Gay and lesbian couples have waited 10-20, some of them 40 years for this moment,” said Clark.

Even though it’s been in the works for three years, Clark says this is uncharted territory for many in Colorado’s LGBT community. Now that Governor Hickenlooper has signed the legislation – Clark’s focus has turned to education. “You know, the process to go to a Clerk and Recorder’s office, what documents you need to bring,” said Clark. He adds his organization is also helping couples answer the tough questions as well.

“I mean, this is a real thing and people are going to be legally tied to one another if they do choose to enter a civil union,” said Clark.

The passage of civil unions will also eliminate the need for same sex couples to carry around binders filled with complicated legal documents to protect their rights. Kelly Nicols, vice president of theGLBT Community Center, says with that documentation mostly obsolete her organization is offering classes in Denver and Fort Collins next month on how to make the transition. “We’re anticipating anywhere from 30-50 per workshop and if the community demand is such that we need to schedule more, we can put those on the calendar at any time,” said Nicols.

Not Just The LGBT Community Scrambling

Weld County Clerk and Recorder Steve Moreno is expecting May 1st to be a very busy day for issuing civil union licenses. “We’ve made sure that staff will be available and we’re not allowing any vacation days for the first week of the implementation of this new piece of legislation,” said Moreno. He’s expecting a rush, but he won’t be opening up his office at midnight like Denver’s Clerk and Recorder. “It probably will be approached just as we do on Valentine’s Day,” said Moreno. “February 14th seems to be a very exciting day for issuing a marriage license and ah, it might kind of be like a February 14th day.”

In neighboring Larimer County – Clerk and Recorder spokesperson Angela Myers says similar preparations are also underway. “You know, we’ve got internal procedures being written and those types of things,” said Myers. “But it’s not all that different from what we’re doing with marriage licenses. So the biggest piece is the influx all at one time.”

One Colorado’s Brad Clark is working on plans for what he says will be a huge celebration in downtown Denver on the evening of April 30th commemorating the new law before the Clerk and Recorder’soffice opens at midnight. "The story at the end of the day isn’t necessarily the votes and the political process, but it’s -at least for me- it’s seeing sometimes the tears and the excitement of these couples who have worked so hard for this,” said Clark.

For Clark, winning the legal civil unions battle is just one step in the ongoing movement toward one day achieving full equality for Gay and Lesbian couples.

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