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Civil unions bill approved by Colorado House panel

A committee in the Colorado House of Representatives last week voted to approve and send to the House proposed legislation that would allow same-sex couples in the state to enter into civil unions, giving them many of the same legal rights as married couples.

The legislation was already previously approved by the Colorado state Senate, for the second year in a row. If enacted into law, it would increase the protections afforded to same-sex couples, including in areas such as child custody, other parental rights, inheritance issues, and the ability to easily be involved in a domestic partner's medical decisions. The bill continues the current ban on gay marriage. Approximately a dozen states currently provide for either civil unions or same-sex marriage.

The civil unions bill would close a gap in the designated beneficiary's law already enacted, which proponents say does not clearly address the child support and child custody arrangements to be made when a same-sex couple with children separates.

The vote in the House Judiciary Committee approving the measure was a narrow 6 to 5 vote. Before the vote, the committee members heard approximately three and a half hours of testimony and engaged in questioning of witnesses.

Among the witnesses testifying in support of the proposed law were parents of children who are gay as well as a committed same-sex couple. Among the witnesses testifying in opposition to the law were a clergyman and a man who stated that he regretted having engaged in gay relationships.

Approval by the Judiciary Committee is not the last step needed before a full House vote, as debate and approval by both the Appropriations and Finance Committees are needed before the full House can take up the bill. Since there was not a chance for a resolution before the end of the legislative session, the governor announced yesterday that he was calling everyone back to work.

Source: Colorado Springs Gazette, "Civil unions face defining moment in Colo. house," Ivan Moreno, May 3, 2012

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