More than 50 people gathered at Fate Brewing Co. in Boulder on Tuesday night for a "pre-union" party celebrating Colorado's civil union law taking effect at midnight.
Several LGBT couples planning to obtain their licenses from the Boulder County Clerk and Recorder's Office when it opened just for the occasion at 11:30 p.m. came together at the small brewery.
For many of them, having their civil unions recognized would be the first time the state would acknowledge the legitimacy of their long-committed relationships.
"It's nice the state is finally able to recognize our commitment to each other after 23 years," said Dottie Wolcott, who was planning to enter into a civil union with partner Phillippa Greathouse.
Michael Calleros and David Sisemore came to Boulder from Aurora to obtain their license. They have been partners for 17 years.
"We just thought it would be a lot more exciting to celebrate with our gay brothers and sisters in Boulder," a tuxedo-clad Calleros said.
The party was one of several events organized by advocacy group Out Boulder, which has been active in setting up informational sessions and celebrations related to civil union licensing in Colorado.
Ann Noonan, vice president of the Out Boulder board of directors and a Boulder County resident since 1978, said she distinctly remembers when Colorado voters passed Amendment 2 in 1992. The referendum, though it was eventually struck down by a Colorado district court judge and never enforced, would have banned gay rights legislation, including the bill that made civil unions legal earlier this year.
"Twenty years later, to be where we are is amazing," Noonan said. "It's a huge, historic moment for us. It recognizes the value of our relationships."
Noonan said the celebration surrounding civil unions -- even though they're not legal marriage -- is important to mark progress of the LGBT rights movement, and also to make the point that the work is far from over.
"It's a long road, so it is important to commemorate the milestones," she said.
Denver's Antonio Martinez and 11-year partner Carlos Torres came to Boulder on Tuesday night because both are University of Colorado graduates and the city has been a special place in their lives.
Torres said he has had first-hand experience with how civil unions can benefit couples. Martinez once had a medical emergency and was taken the emergency room, but Torres had to wait until Martinez's mother came to the hospital before he could get permission to visit him.
"They gladly accepted my insurance, but they wouldn't let me go and see him," Torres said. "So this makes me relieved and happy." ___