Politics

Colorado Lawmakers Approve Civil Unions Bill

The House, led by an out gay speaker, voted 39-26 in favor of the measure Tuesday. “Just make sure… that you feel confident that that vote is something you will be proud of in the future,” Speaker Ferrandino told members.

Colorado House Speaker Mark Ferrandino and Rep. Sue Schafer share the podium as they speak on the civil unions bill in the House Chamber on Monday, March 11, 2013. Ed Andrieski / AP

WASHINGTON — The Colorado House voted a bill legalizing civil unions Tuesday on a 39-26 vote that sends the bill to Gov. John Hickenlooper’s desk. He has said he will sign it into law.

The bill had been considered in the previous session of the Colorado legislature, but Republican leadership in the House stopped the measure from advancing. When Democrats took the majority in the House in November 2012, they elected Rep. Mark Ferrandino, an out gay representative from Denver who said he would advance the measure, as House speaker.

Addressing the House today, Ferrandino, according to a statement released by his office, said, “Yes, our focus is on jobs, but there are other things we can do.” Referencing himself and the other four out LGBT state representatives, he asked the House to recognize “that our love is the same as everyone else’s love, and that our families are the same as everyone else’s families.”

Getting personal, he told other members, “Look at yourself in the mirror. Just make sure that you feel confident that you’re making the right vote and that you feel confident that that vote is something you will be proud of in the future.”

Two Republicans, Reps. Cheri Gerou and Carole Murray joined the House Democrats in voting for the bill.

Colorado lawmakers were limited in the action they could take because the state’s constitution was amended in 2006 to prohibit same-sex couples from marrying. Passed as Amendment 43, the state’s constitution now says, “Only a marriage between one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in this state.”

Earlier, Colorado also had been home to Amendment 2, a constitutional ban on any protections for gay people that was later struck down as unconstitutional under the U.S. Constitution by the Supreme Court.

To that end, Tim Gill, a prominent LGBT donor who funds the Gill Foundation based in Colorado, told BuzzFeed in a statement, “We’ve come a long way from the days of Amendment 2 to today’s post-partisan win for all families. Scott [Miller, Gill’s husband] and I want to thank all those who helped Colorado take this important step toward full equality. We’re proud Coloradans.”

Colorado’s one out LGBT member of Congress, Rep. Jared Polis celebrated the news from his state, but suggested the limitations on the bill by noting this was just one step toward equality there.

“I applaud the Colorado State legislature for their passage of the Colorado Civil Union Act. This is an important victory for Colorado and for the gay and lesbian community. I want to thank Speaker Mark Ferrandino and Senator Pat Steadman, as well as Brad Clark of One Colorado, for their leadership on this issue,” Polis said in a statement provided to BuzzFeed. “This is a monumental step on the road to equality in Colorado.”

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper has said he will sign the civil unions bill. Pool New / Reuters

Check out more articles on BuzzFeed.com!

Chris Geidner is the legal editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, D.C. Geidner covers the Supreme Court and also reports extensively on LGBT legal issues around the country. Geidner won the 2014 National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association award for journalist of the year.
Contact this reporter at chris.geidner@buzzfeed.com
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