Civil Unions Passes First Committee

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A bill to create civil unions passed its first committee hearing in the state legislature Wednesday evening, after several hours of discussion. The fact that the bill is almost certain to become law didn't do much to dampen the testimony on either side.

This is a transcript of a report from Colorado Public Radio's Megan Verlee:

Reporter Megan Verlee: Among those who urged lawmakers to grant marriage-like recognition to gay couples were college Republicans, the mayor of Denver, and couples like Fran and Anna Simon, who tried to put a personal face on the issue.

Fran Simon: “A civil union won’t change how we feel about each other, but it will improve our capacity to take care of each other.”

Reporter: Many of the bill’s opponents focused on whether it would force adoption services, wedding industry professionals, and other business people to provide services to couples in a civil union.

Kellie Fiedorek (attorney, Alliance Defending Freedom): "We have handled many cases where laws expanding sexual liberty have negatively impacted regular everyday Americans because they have a sincere religious belief about sex and marriage."

Reporter: Republican lawmakers on the committee complained the civil unions bill violates Colorado’s ban on gay marriage by creating a legal relationship nearly identical to marriage. Senator Kevin Lundberg (R-Berthoud) pushed gay rights advocate Brad Clark on how the two would differ.

Senator Kevin Lunberg: “I see a carbon copy, a mirror image of marriage in Colorado law, and I’m just not seeing it, what you’re saying, that there is such a big distinction.”

Brad Clark: “Words do have value, and the ability to marry your partner is something the state does give people.”

Reporter: Clark said the state would not be granting gay couples that ability with civil unions. Later in the hearing, Lundberg called the discussion around civil unions "Orwellian doublespeak" for denying that it was a form of marriage.

The bill has one more committee hearing before heading to the full state Senate.

[Photo: MVerlee/CPR]