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Colorado Civil Unions Bill Clears Second Senate Hurdle, Likely To Become Law

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As expected, a civil unions bill that would allow same-sex couples in Colorado similar rights to that of married couples has received its second approval from Colorado lawmakers Friday.

After several hours of heated debate, the Senate passed the bill with only one Republican joining Democrats in voting in favor of Senate Bill-11. The bill was expected to sail through the Senate and requires one last vote before it reaches the House, which could happen as soon as next week according to 9News. It is expected to pass through the House as well, as Democrats control both chambers of the legislature this year.

Fox31 detailed the drama on Senate floor as Republicans attempted to amend the bill on behalf of religious organizations and businesses, but a defiant Sen. Pat Steadman, co-sponsor of the bill along with fellow Democrat Lucia Guzman, would not cave in to the interests of the Republican lawmakers.

"What to say to those who claim that religion requires them to discriminate?" Steadman began, Fox31 reported. "I tell you what I’d say: 'get thee to a nunnery, and live there. Go live a monastic life, away from modern society, away from people you can’t see as equals to yourself'."

“Go some place and be as judgmental as you like, go inside your church, establish separate water fountains if you like. But don’t tell me that your free exercise of religion requires the state of Colorado to establish separate water fountains," Steadman said.

When SB-11 finally reaches the governor's desk, it's very likely to be signed into law. "Civil unions is about justice and economic prosperity," Hickenlooper posted on his Facebook page two weeks ago when the bill was introduced this year. "We've said before, saying again: Pass this bill!"

Earlier this month during his State of the State address Hickenlooper voiced similar enthusiasm for the bill. "This year, let's do it. Let's pass civil unions!" Hickenlooper said.

Last year the governor called a special session to try and pass the bill, among several bills, when the clock ran out, but the bill ended up dying on a party line vote for the second year in a row.

Democrats have introduced the bill in the state Legislature for the past two years, but this year they have the majority in both chambers and Mark Ferrandino (D-Denver), a sponsor of the bill in years past, became Colorado's first openly gay speaker of the House.

The bill has some Republican support, but Democrats are overwhelmingly supportive of getting it passed this session, though another battle may loom ahead because Colorado's Constitution still bans same-sex marriage.

Republican State Senator Kevin Lundberg, who stands in opposition of the bill, told 9News:

The principles of marriage and the family are so much bigger than Colorado's laws that we are no more capable of actually redefining this timeless institution than we are of changing the laws of gravity.

Colorado may take another look at their Constitution however if the U.S. Supreme Court -- which is looking at California's constitutional same-sex marriage ban this March -- finds Proposition 8 unconstitutional.

According to a poll by Public Policy Polling in August, 57 percent of Coloradans support a bill establishing civil unions with 37 percent opposed.

Colorado would become the sixth state to support civil unions. Currently, nine states and the District of Columbia give marriage licenses to same-sex couples and three states have pending same-sex marriage laws.

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