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Gay civil unions approved by Colorado House

English: A woman makes her support of her marr...

English: A woman makes her support of her marriage, and not civil unions, known outside the Mormon temple at New York City’s Lincoln Center. Photographer’s blog post about this photo and the protest. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

History was made this week when Colorado became the 18th state to legally recognize same-sex couples, either through marriage or civil unions.

The Colorado House of Representatives passed SB-11 Tuesday in a 39-26 vote, which provides gay and straight couples the legal benefits, protections and responsibilities granted to married spouses under state law.

“I think it’s a reflection of what’s to come,” said sophomore sociology major Hailey Bergeron. “I’m really looking forward to the future of Colorado and the future of the United States. We’re steadily moving toward equality.”

The bill now makes its way to the desk of Gov. John Hickenlooper, who is expected to sign it into law. May 1 marks the first day couples could apply for a civil union license.

As reported in the Denver Post, Sen. Pat Steadman, D-Denver, said it is important to make the distinction between civil unions and marriage.

“We’re not there yet. I don’t want anyone to think that we somehow reached the peak…” Steadman said. “Civil unions are not marriage. They are something separate and distinct and lesser and unequal and that really is not good enough.”

Same-sex couples cannot marry in Colorado because of Amendment 43 — an amendment to the Colorado constitution that defines marriage as between a man and a woman.

According to Section 31 of Amendment 43, “Only a union of one man and one woman shall be recognized as a marriage in this state.”

Political Science professor John Straayer said that while the political climate in Colorado is changing, the bill won’t impact the rest of the nation, at least in the short term.

“It is just one more move in one more state to do the inevitable, namely, get beyond the issue and expand rights to couples and families regardless of sexual preference,” Straayer said in an email to the Collegian.

While the civil union legislation does not include marriage equality, supporters still view the bill as a major success.

“This is an opportunity for Colorado to continue to be a leader in rights that build equity for people,” said K. Foula Dimopoulous, director of CSU’s GLBT Resources Center.

“For me, both professionally as director of this office and personally, I think (it) says Colorado has a commitment to all of its’ citizens and a commitment towards equity,” Dimopoulous said. “That doesn’t mean everything is perfect, but what I do think it means is that change is on the rise — I think that’s really impactful for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and the people who love them.”

While Republican senators were divided on the bill, President of the College Republicans at CSU, Brad Dick, said he thinks the overall Republican position on gay marriage is changing.

“I think overall Republicans are changing their stance a little bit on homosexual issues,” Dick said. “How somebody’s sexual orientation affects my life — it doesn’t really. Their decisions don’t affect how I live my daily life.”

“It’s not our call to make,” Dick said. “I’m an advocate for traditional marriage but it’s not my place to judge.”

Dick said one reason he supported the bill is because it limits government involvement and returns control to American citizens.

“I don’t like when the government has control over our personal lives — individuals should have more control over their lives, not government,” Dick said.

While Dick said he was a fan of the civil union bill, he thinks it is not representative of Republicans across the state.

“If you put (the bill) up to a vote, if you put it on the ballot, I don’t think it would pass,” Dick said.

The bill however, is progress according to Dimopoulos and an affirmation for GLBTQ youth.

“It gives them one more example of how change happens when people currently living and fighting for equity and the people who came long before … have been fighting for over 25 years just in Colorado,” Dimopoulous said. “And I think it’s a pretty powerful time to be living.”

Bergeron said she thinks the bill validates people’s relationships and identities.

“I think it’s a positive impact and it’s definitely going to be a whole different ballgame for the next generation,” she said.

“My hope is that children and youth and young adults and older adults will see this as a way to know that they matter, and even if they don’t matter to this extent in other states that they matter in numerous states across the country and they matter in more states than they ever have,” Dimopoulous said.

Senior Reporter Kate Simmons can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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