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Religious Tolerance logo

Same sex civil unions & same-sex marriages (SSM) in Colorado

Part 1: 2013: Legislature session begins.
Civil Union bill reintroduced. Deficiencies
in the bill. Bill passed by 2 Senate committees.

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This topic is continued from the previous essay

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2013-JAN-09: Colorado Legislature opens:

With the Governor's office, the Senate and the House under Democratic control, Denver Post reporter Lynn Bartels bravely predicted:

"... one issue is not in doubt: Colorado is poised to become the ninth state in the nation to allow same-sex couples to form civil unions." 1

Senator Pat Steadman (D) re-introduced his civil unions bill to the Senate. It is Senate Bill 13-011. 2 Unfortunately, if and when civil unions become available, it will be too late for him to personally access them. He has led the drive for civil unions and is openly gay. But his partner of 12 years, Dave Misner, died during 2012-SEP of pancreatic cancer. Steadman said about the anticipated passage of his bill:

"It's going to be very sad for me, and sort of anticlimactic."

Mark Ferrandino (D) became the first openly gay Speaker of the Colorado House. He expects that the civil unions bill will become signed into law by the Governor about 2013-MAR.

Having made a full sweep of the Legislature and Governor's office, some speculated that the Democrats might choose to follow the lead of Maine, Maryland, and Washington State. All three legalize same-sex marriage (SSM) after public referendums on election day on 2012-NOV. However, in 2006, the voters had passed a referendum that amended the Constitution to ban SSM. Legalizing SSM would first require the 2006 amendment to the Constitution to be repealed.

Steadman commented:

"As a state senator, I cannot propose marriage equality because our constitution forbids it, and I took an oath to uphold our constitution. But my oath also requires me to uphold the federal constitution and its promise of equal protection of the law. These obligations are in conflict and I cannot remain satisfied with the status quo."

"I have consistently admitted that civil unions are not equal to marriage and they are in fact 'lesser, separate and unequal.' And yet they are worth fighting for and there will be thousands of couples that will choose to enter this new relationship in Colorado." 1

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About the civil unions bill:

As of 2013-FEB the bill states:

  • The short title of the bill is the "Colorado Civil Union Act."

  • With few restrictions, any two adults, regardless of gender, can enter into a civil union as long as neither is married to another person or is a partner/party in another civil union.

  • Parties who are related to each other as an ancestor, or a descendent, or are brothers, or sisters, etc. cannot enter a civil union.

  • "A priest, minister, rabbi, or other official of a religious institution or denomination or an Indian nation or tribe is not required to certify a civil union in violation of his or her right to free exercise of religion."

  • State-granted "... rights, benefits, protections, duties, obligations, responsibilities, and other incidents under law that are granted or imposed under the law to [married] spouses apply in like manner to parties to a civil union.

  • "The same processes used for dissolution, legal separation and declaration of invalidity of a marriage apply" equally to civil unions.

  • Same-sex marriages legally solemnized in the District of Columbia or another state or country are recognized as civil unions in Colorado.

  • Similar civil unions legally entered into in other political jurisdictions are recognized as civil unions in Colorado.

  • Partners/parties in a civil union have the right to adopt a child.

  • The final Section of the bill states: "

    "The general assembly hereby finds, determines, and declares that this act is necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health, and safety.

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Deficiencies inherent in civil unions:

  • Although the partners to a civil union pick up most of the rights, benefits, protections, duties, obligations, responsibilities of marriage, they do not have what is to most the most important right and benefit of all: to be able to call their relationship a marriage.

  • Both same-sex "civil unionized" and same-sex married couples are automatically denied about 1.140 federal benefits that are routinely given to opposite-sex married couples because of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). However the constitutionality of the law has been challenged by lawsuits in numerous federal courts. All of the courts that have ruled on the lawsuits to date have determined that the law is unconstitutional. The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in one case during late 2013-MAR and probably issue their decision in 2013-JUN. If they rule that the law is unconstitutional, then same-sex and opposite-sex married couples will probably be treated equally by the federal government. However, civil union partners will probably still be denied access to federal programs even though they are treated equally to married couples in their state.

Also, there is no authorization of funds in the bill for an educational program to acquaint the people of Colorado that civil union partners are to be given the same rights as married spouses. Other states have overlooked this provision as well and have seen partners being denied access to their partner in hospitals, or not being able to participate in medical decisions, etc.

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If you are considering whether to enter into a civil union, we recommend that you:

  • Read the entire act and
  • Re-read it if and when it is made into law. 2

If you are planning to enter into a civil union we recommend that you discuss the implications with an expert in family law who is familiar with Colorado law.

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2013-JAN-23: Senate Judiciary Committee approves civil union bill:

The Senate Judiciary Committee approved Senate Bill 13-011 by a straight party-line vote of all 3 Democrats in favor and all 2 Republicans opposed.

An amendment had been proposed that would allow religiously based adoption agencies and other child placement agencies to discriminate against same-sex partners in a civil union and restrict their agency's services only to opposite-sex couples. Such a provision had been included in the 2012 bill.

Its sponsor, Pat Steadman apparently added the clause in 2012 in order to increase the chances of the bill succeeding. However, the Catholic Church still opposed the bill even with the exemptions included. In addition, Steadman didn't want to enshrine discrimination into the legislation, and noted that allowing people and agencies to discriminate didn't win over any additional votes for the bill. So, he decided not to include it in this year's bill. 6,7

The amendment was rejected by the committee. Lack of such protection to discriminate in Illinois and Massachusetts in past years resulting in the adoption agencies of Catholic Charities in those states deciding to close down. 6

The bill has 2 sponsors and 18 co-sponsors in the Senate. It has two sponsors and 36 co-sponsors in the House. Assuming that all of the sponsors of the bill also vote in favor of the bill, then it will receive a majority vote in both houses. The Governor is a strong advocate for civil unions. Its passage into law appears assured.

Senator Lucia Guzman (D) is one of four openly gay legislators who are co-sponsoring the bill, She said:

"Today has been years in the making. "There are those here today who spent years hiding, hiding the truth from their parents, friends, bosses, even hiding from themselves." 3

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2013-JAN-31: Senate Appropriations Committee approves bill:

By a 4-3 vote, the civil unions bill was passed by the Senate Appropriations Committee. It now passes to the full Senate for a vote. 4 Again, all four Democrats voted for the bill, all three Republicans voted against it.

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This topic continues in the next essay

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Lynn Bartels, "Civil unions on fast track to passage in Colorado legislature,: Denver Post, 2012-NOV-29, at:
  2. Senate Bill 13-011 "A bill for an act concerning authorization of civil unions," downloaded at 2013-FEB-03, at: [The bill may be modified later by amendments]
  3. Lynn Bartels, "As expected, Senate committee passes Colorado civil unions bill," Denver Post, 2013-JAN-23, at:
  4. "Colorado Senate Committee Approves Civil Unions Bill," On Top Magazine, 2013-FEB-01, at:
  5. Zack Ford, "Colorado Senate Committee Advances Civil Unions Bill," Think Progress, 2013-JAN31, at:
  6. Kevin Jones, "Rally Against Colo. Civil Unions Bill Warns of ‘Great Persecution’," National Catholic Register, 2013-JAN-28, at:
  7. Earest Luning, "Pro-civil unions Republicans want to rebrand party image," The Colorado Statesman, 2013-FEB-01, at:

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Copyright 2013 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance.
First posted: 2013-FEB-03
Latest update: 2013-FEB-04
Author: B.A. Robinson

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