Civil Unions Bill Passes Key Committee

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1min 37sec

A bill to create civil unions is advancing in the Colorado House. It passed the judiciary committee Thursday night after one of the panel’s Republicans switched her position. But with only four working days left in the session, backers are worried they may run out of time. Colorado Public Radio’s Megan Verlee reports.

Listen to CPR's earlier coverage of the civil unions bill here

[the following is a transcript of Megan Verlee's report]

REPORTER MEGAN VERLEE: Representative BJ Nikkel says she’s given the issue of civil unions a lot of thought since voting against a similar bill last year. But she didn’t make up her mind until she was sitting in the committee yesterday, listening to testimony. And when it came time to vote...

Rep BJ NIKKEL (R-Loveland): "I guess I was looking out over the crowd and thinking, you know these are all folks that deserve to be treated like we all do."

REPORTER: Nikkel’s colleague on the Judiciary committee, Republican Brian DelGrosso, says he understands why she changed her mind. But he believes Colorado should focus on reforming the designated beneficiary agreement, which is an existing way for unmarried adults to create a legal relationship.

Rep BRIAN DELGROSSO: "Now the testimony that was brought up today shows there’s definitely a lot of holes in there. I still think we can currently change what we have in law, make that better."

REPORTER: Civil union supporters believe they have enough Republican votes to get the bill through the rest of the process, if it keeps moving. The end of the session is only days away, and they’re worried Judiciary Committee chair Bob Gardner, who opposes civil unions, could use a parliamentary tactic to fatally delay the bill. Last night, Gardner wouldn’t say when he plans to let it move forward.

Rep BOB GARDNER (R-Colorado Springs): "The committee report’s not done and I have three days under the House rules to review and consider the committee report."

REPORTER: Democrats, like Representative Dan Pabon, were quick to start criticizing the possibility of a delay.

Rep DAN PABON (R-Denver): "My worry is is that politics and game playing are going to start and we’re going to have a hope that’s sprouted tonight ending in defeat because a committeeman won’t sign the chair’s report."

REPORTER: Both sides of the civil unions debate are likely gearing up now for a behind-the-scenes fight over what happens next with the bill, and whether it happens in time.

[Photo: CPR/Verlee]