2012-MAY-03: The House Judiciary Committee passes Civil Union Senate Bill 12-02 after hearings:
During the week of APR-29, the House Judiciary Committee held hearings on the civil union bill which is commonly called SB 2. 1
Rep. Mark Ferrandino (D), who is openly gay and a sponsor of SB 2 testified that he and other lesbians, gays and bisexuals (LGBs) merely seek equal rights. He referred to the rows of law books behind the Judiciary Committee Chairperson, saying:
"All we're asking is for equal access to those books that are behind you Mr. Chairman." 2
Ivan Moreno, a reporter for the Gazette in Colorado Springs wrote:
"At one point, dozens in the audience stood up when the committee chairman asked for supporters to stand because the first phase of testimony was ending and they wouldn't be able to speak.
The 6-5 vote came after hours of emotional testimony from gay couples who said they're vulnerable because they don't have the rights afforded to married people. One Republican, Rep. B.J. Nikkel, joined Democrats in approving the bill.
"To me it became an issue of fairness, in terms of trying to treat everybody equally and giving the same rights that I have," said Nikkel, who was one of the "no" votes last year when the plan died in the same committee on a 6-5 party line vote. ..."
"Opponents argue civil unions undermine traditional marriage and that voters expressed their position on the issue when they banned same-sex marriage in 2006.
Byron Babione, with the Alliance Defense Fund, a conservative group that stands for religious freedom, echoed the concerns of some of the opponents when he said civil unions are 'marriage without the name.'
However, supporters say the bill does not allow marriage between gay couples." 2
Testimony in support of the Civil Union Bill:
During the hearings, Jeremy Shaver, Executive Director of the Interfaith Alliance of Colorado spoke in favor of the bill. He also spoke on behalf of the Faithful Voices for Strong Families Coalition -- another group that supports civil unions. We include his testimony here because his groups' opinions represent a strong majority of Colorado voters, and because he quotes some additional statistics that shed light on the bill's support among religious voters. He said:
"Our coalition has grown since last year. Faithful Voices is composed of 202 individual faith leaders and 50 faith-based organizations and congregations in Colorado. These 202 faith leaders and 50 faith-based organizations are united in their support of the Colorado Civil Union Act. Our diverse coalition is composed of ministers, pastors, rabbis, chaplains, non-profit directors, and seminary professors.
These faith leaders are United Methodists, Lutherans, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, members of the United Church of Christ, evangelicals, Roman and Ecumenical Catholics, Quakers, Unitarian Universalists, and Jews from at least three major movements in Judaism.
They are ministers and rabbis in Colorado Springs, Loveland, Fort Collins, Greeley, Pueblo, Grand Junction, Buena Vista, Gunnison, Woodrow (on the eastern plains), the Metropolitan-Denver area and beyond.
As diverse as this coalition is theologically, ideologically, and politically, there are two main values that unite us:
As people of faith, we believe in the Golden Rule –- to treat our neighbors as we want to be treated. We believe civil unions honor the love and commitment of gay and lesbian couples by allowing them to take care of each other and their families.
Secondly, as people of faith, we believe that a family is best defined by love and commitment, not the gender of two loving people. Denying loving families the protections and responsibilities of civil unions puts Colorado families in danger and weakens our communities. Denying loving families the protections and responsibilities of civil unions degrades our moral fabric.
Let me share two final comments:
First, our faith coalition applauds and affirms how this bill protects and enhances religious freedom. We appreciate that no religious official would have to solemnize a civil union or sign a civil union certificate. We also appreciate and celebrate that a religious leader may choose to perform a civil union as a way to recognize the loving relationship of a couple in her or his congregation.
And, finally, while I know much of the testimony against civil unions will be based on religious beliefs, I want you to know that support for legal recognition of same-gender couples is growing in Colorado.
According to a Greenberg poll of Coloradans:
55% of 'born again Christians' support civil unions,
74% of Catholics support civil unions,
67% of Protestants support civil unions,
60% of voters who attend church once a week support civil unions." 1
What Jeremy Shaver didn't mention in his presentation is that his interfaith group is essentially a Judeo-Christian group that is primarily made up of liberal/progressive denominations and traditions. For example, the only Baptist congregation in their list of supporting congregation is the Calvary Baptist Church of Denver which is a member of the American Baptist Churches -- a mainline/progressive Baptist group.
Press release opposing the Civil Unions Bill:
In opposition to the civil unions bill was a press release issued by Rep. Marsha Looper's campaign office, titled: "Civil Unions and the Progressive Agenda:"
"Many political elites on both side of the aisle believe now is the time to redefine marriage between one man and one woman, and fundamentally change our culture. Unfortunately, Senate Bill 2 provides them the legislative vehicle to accomplish their goal.
I strongly oppose Senate Bill 2 and believe it takes the dangerous step of redefining marriage. The voters of Colorado have spoken, they do not want marriage redefined and it is not appropriate for 100 elected officials to override their wishes.
Since 2003, there have been numerous policies implemented that provide sexual orientation protections, benefits for domestic partners, designated beneficiary agreements and alternative lifestyle educational requirements that erode our nation’s traditional family and religious principles.
The argument that two individuals do not have statutory authority in matters of finances, property, medical and end of life decisions is not accurate. In 2009 the Democrat controlled House, Senate and Governor’s office, passed House Bill 1260 – The Colorado Designated Beneficiary Act allowing two people to enter into agreements providing each other rights;
to jointly acquire property;
to be the designated as beneficiary in non-probate transfers related to death;
to be designated as the beneficiary in a life or health insurance policy, retirement plan;
to have priority appointment as personal representative;
to make nursing home and hospital visits;
to make medical decisions;
to inherit property.
Unfortunately, one of our nation’s most sacred and important principles, marriage between one man and one woman is again under assault at the Colorado State Capitol and your help is needed! Please call your State Legislators today at 800-811-7647 and ask them to oppose Senate Bill 2! Any type of civil union policy will create severe and long-term societal consequences." 3
Of course, Rep. Looper's concern is not valid. Passing the civil unions bill would not directly redefine marriage. However, it would very likely be the first step that will lead to other pieces of legislation that would first remove the ban on same-sex marriages from the Colorado Constitution, and then later legalize same-sex marriages.