Colorado approves civil unions

The Colorado House passed a civil unions bill Tuesday (March 12), making Colorado the ninth state to pass a civil unions law and the 19th to have some form of legal recognition for same-sex relationships.

Colorado’s openly gay House Speaker Mark Ferrandino led 36 Democrats and two Republicans in the 39 to 26 vote on the measure. The bill passed the Senate 21 to 14 in February with only on Republican vote. Democratic Governor John Hickenlooper is a long-time supporter of marriage equality and is expected to sign the legislation, which can take effect May 1.

The Denver Post reported that Republicans in the House tried to amend the bill to require exemptions for “religious conscience” and to require voter approval, but both efforts failed.

Nine states and the District of Columbia have marriage equality laws. Six states (including Colorado) have civil unions. Four states have domestic partnerships.

In three states, civil unions laws have been a precursor for marriage equality laws. Among the six with civil unions laws now, Illinois is poised to become the next to pass marriage equality.

The Illinois Senate approved a marriage equality bill on February 14 by a 34 to 21 vote, its House is expected to vote as early as this week, and its governor has announced he will sign the bill. State Rep. Greg Harris has told reporters he believes supporters are “within striking distance” of having the votes to pass the bill.

Hopes that a marriage equality bill would be moved through the Hawaii legislature this year were stalled in February when the House Judiciary Committee refused to hold a hearing on the measure. A similar bill in the Rhode Island legislature passed the House in January and is expected to see action in the state senate in April.

Meanwhile, a statewide LGBT group in Oregon is gathering signatures to put a pro-active marriage equality measure on that state’s ballot in November 2014.

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