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Civil Unions Bill Passes Colorado Senate Without Debate, Heads To House Where It Is Also Expected To Pass

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Openly gay Sen. Pat Steadman, D-Denver, speaks at a rally supporting Civil Unions at the Capitol in Denver on May 14, 2012. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)
Openly gay Sen. Pat Steadman, D-Denver, speaks at a rally supporting Civil Unions at the Capitol in Denver on May 14, 2012. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski)

Without any further debate, Colorado's civil unions bill that grants same-sex couples similar rights to that of married couples has passed through the Democrat-controlled state Senate. Senate Bill 11 now heads to the House, also controlled by Democrats, where it is expected to pass.

The bill's sponsors, two openly gay Denver Democrats, sounded off on Twitter. This morning, before the vote, Sen. Lucia Guzman tweeted:

And after the vote:

Sen. Pat Steadman tweeted this upon the bill's passing:

The Denver Post reports that the bill passed 21-14 with the sole Republican yes" vote coming from Sen. Ellen Roberts of Durango.

After several hours of heated debate last Friday, the bill cleared its second hurdle in the Senate with only one Republican joining Democrats in voting in favor of SB-11.

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.

SB-11 is expected to be signed into law and become effective in May 2013.

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