The Colorado state senate approved a bill granting civil unions to same-sex couples without debate on Monday.
In a victory for the LGBT community, the bill received unanimous Democrat support and approval from one Republican, Senator Ellen Roberts of Durango, in a 21-14 vote. It is expected to pass the Democrat-controlled house, and Governor John Hickerlooper has already promised to sign the bill into law.
This is the third and predicted final time that the state Senate will approve legal recognition of gay partners. An emotional day, supporters hugged and shed tears after the bill’s passing. Co-sponsors and openly gay senators Pat Steadman and Lucia Guzman—both Democrats—rejoiced via Twitter.
Lucia Guzman tweeted:
“Senate passing civil union 2day! Can’t say exactly 4 how long we’ve waited for this, but it feels like justice is rolling down the mountain #coleg.”
The bill has drawn criticism from state Republicans. Senator Kevin Lundberg, R- Larimer County, who stands in opposition, says he worries that the bill will require some churches to open themselves to same-sex ceremonies. Senator Owen Hill, R-El Paso County, proposed an amendment that would grant a religious conviction exemption which was voted down last Friday.
In statements that reflect the emotional intensity over marriage equality, Steadman responded to opponents with strong words:
“What to say to those who claim that religion requires them to discriminate?” he told Fox31. “I tell you what I’d say: ‘get thee to a nunnery, and live there. Go live a monastic life, away from modern society, away from people you can’t see as equals to yourself’.”
Steadman went on to evoke memories of the Civil Rights struggle:
“Go some place and be as judgmental as you like, go inside your church, establish separate water fountains if you like. But don’t tell me that your free exercise of religion requires the state of Colorado to establish separate water fountains.”
According to a public policy poll conducted in August, most Coloradans agree with Sen. Steadman. 57% of those polled said that they support civil unions while 37% oppose.
If the bill is signed into law it would take effect May 1 of this year, making Colorado the sixth state to support civil unions.