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Colorado House Passes Civil Unions On Voice Vote, Formal Vote Tuesday

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House Speaker Mark Ferrandino, D-Denver, and House Minority leader Mark Waller, R-Colorado Springs, talk during debate on the Civil Unions Bill in the House Chamber at the Capitol on Monday, March 11, 2013. The proposal got initial approval with a voice vote in the Democratic-controlled House on Monday. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski) | AP

Civil unions advanced in the Colorado House on a voice vote Monday, and is poised to become law.

The House will take a formal recorded vote on Tuesday before the bill advances to the governor's desk. Democrats control the House 37-28 and Gov. John Hickenlooper has said that he will sign the bill into law when it reaches his desk.

"What this bill is about is personal freedom and individual liberties," said Cheri Gerou, R-Evergreen, one of two Republicans supporting Senate Bill 11. "This is a good conservative bill."

The House debated civil unions for the first time in its history Monday. A similar civil unions bill was the most contentious issue at the end of last year's legislative session when it was killed in committee.

Then-Speaker Frank McNulty, R-Highlands Ranch, ran out the clock and killed the bill along with 30 others during a special session.

"This marks the first day in my time here that the full House will debate civil unions," said bill sponsor, Rep. Mark Ferrandino, D-Denver.

This year Ferrandino, Colorado's first openly-gay Speaker of the House, pointed out that Colorado has eight gay legislators -- the most per capita and almost the first state with gay legislative leaders in both chambers.

"This bill is about three simple things," Ferrandino said. "It's about love, it's about family, and it's about equality under the law."

This year the bill does not include religious exemptions for adoption agencies, and the bill's sponsors have rejected GOP amendements for religious exemptions.

Republican Rep. Lori Saine, Dacono, however argued that religious beliefs play a central role in her opposition of the bill while additional GOP members kept likening the bill to same-sex marriage.

"What this bill is about, really is the Bible. Is it right or wrong?" Saine asked.

But in his opening speech, Ferrandino reminded the Legislature that civil unions are not marriage, though same-sex marriage is something he personally supports.

In 2006, voters passed Amendment 43, a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman.

"Until the voters say otherwise, civil unions is the closest we can do as a General Assembly to make sure that all families are provided protections under the law," Ferrandino said.

Colorado will become the 18th state to pass civil unions or gay marriage.

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