Colorado may soon take what some consider an important step toward equal rights for all its residents.
The Colorado General Assembly is currently in the process of reviewing the Colorado Civil Union Act, which would allow same-sex couples to enter into a civil union.
The bill went through the Senate committee on Jan. 23 and is expected to pass. It has the backing of the democratic majority and of Gov. John Hickenlooper.
Similar bills have appeared in the general assembly before, only to be killed before reaching the governor. With the support the bill has currently, many are saying this will be the year it succeeds.
The difference between civil unions and marriage is important to note. According to Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), there are over a thousand legal protections given to married couples that are not given to those in a civil union. These include things like taking time off work to care for a loved one, Social Security survivor benefits and more.
“My initial reaction is close, but not quite there yet,” said Amy Power, senior health and exercise science major and member of the student organization, Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Allied People of CSU (SOGLBT). “I’d rather have civil unions than nothing at all.”
Civil unions do afford some of the same rights as marriage, including adopting children, visiting each other in the hospital and making medical decisions for one another.
“It’s a step forward because it means that the collective consciousness of Colorado is starting to move forward in a positive direction,” said Maureen Kosse, SOGLBT member and senior linguistics major.
Many believe that while civil unions are a step forward, they are not enough.
“I’m definitely torn between two feelings: on the one hand, it’s a step in the right direction, but it does at times feel like a cop-out,” said Ian Farrow, vice president of SOGLBT and senior microbiology major.
The reason for civil unions as opposed to marriage is that in 2006 Colorado passed a constitutional ban on same-sex unions by defining marriage as something exclusively between a man and a woman. This can only be overturned by a vote of the people.
“Civil unions are the most we can do legislatively to provide equality and justice to people in loving and committed relationships,” said District 43 representative Randy Fischer. “I think it’s important for us to send a message. I think this would be a big step for civil rights and equality for all our citizens.”
Many residents are hoping that if the civil union bill passes it could eventually lead to marriage for same-sex couples.
“I’m not going to say that I’m not crossing my fingers,” Powers said. “I eventually hope to be married, and I love the state of Colorado. So for me to have to move to get married is actually pretty heartbreaking because this is my home.”
If passed, Colorado will become the sixth state with civil union laws.
Collegian Writer McKenna Ferguson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.