Civil Unions bill passes Colo. Senate

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DENVER — A bill allowing lesbian and gay couples to form civil unions easily passed the Colorado State Senate Monday morning with all but one Republican voting no on the measure.

Sen. Ellen Roberts of Durango was the lone Republican who voted yes on the bill, which passed 21-14. Democrats have a five-vote majority in the Senate and passage of Senate Bill 11 was never in any doubt.

Gay Denver Democrats Sens. Pat Steadman and Lucia Guzman sponsored the bill.

After its passage, Guzman tweeted “it feels like justice rolling down the mountain.”

The bill in 2011 and 2012 died in the Republican-controlled House. Last year it was stalled in the House during a dramatic night on the last night of the session.

Democrats now have a majority in the House, where the bill is expected to pass and be signed by Gov. John Hickenlooper.

If the law is singed in March, it could become effective as soon as May.

During debate last week, social conservatives tried to add amendments that would exempt religious institutions from the bill.

“Religious freedom is woven into the fabric of our lives,” said Sen. Owen Hill, R-Colorado Springs. “To undermine the most basic of rights, the freedom of religion enshrined in the First Amendment, on the path to expanded rights for gays and lesbians, leads us down the path of the very worst form of government policy, that which takes rights away from some in the process of granting them to others.”

But Steadman had made it clear at the hearing’s outset that any Republican effort to restore the religious exemption wasn’t happening on his watch.

“What to say to those who claim that religion requires them to discriminate? 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.”