Civil unions bill heading to Senate floor

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DENVER — This year’s legislation to recognize same-sex civil unions is on its way to the Senate floor.

Senate Bill 2 cleared the Senate Appropriations Committee Tuesday morning on a 5-4 party-line vote, with all Democrats on the panel voting yes and all Republicans voting no.

It will be debated and voted on by the full Senate some time next week.

With Democrats holding a 20-15 edge in the chamber, the bill is assured of passing and heading onto the GOP-controlled House, where the same proposal died last year in a committee hearing before ever reaching the House floor.

With at least a few Republican House members indicating support for the bill, House Speaker Frank McNulty’s only real chance to kill the legislation will come in committee; if the legislation reaches the House floor, it’ll be on its way to Gov. John Hickenlooper’s desk.

“In the coming days and weeks, we’re committed to working to ensure a fair hearing in the Colorado House of Representatives,” said Brad Clark, the executive director of One Colorado, the statewide LGBT advocacy group. “Issues of significant importance with overwhelming public support like civil unions deserve a full and fair hearing with an up-or-down vote by the entire House.”

Just last week, another poll from Public Policy Polling showed that an overwhelming majority of Coloradans support civil unions.

The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Pat Steadman, D-Denver, will provide committed gay and lesbian couples with critical legal protections and responsibilities, such as the ability to take family leave to care for a partner, to make medical and end-of-life decisions for a partner, to live together in a nursing home, and to adopt children together.

Several high-profile Republicans outside the Capitol have formed a group to express support for the measure; but inside the Capitol, GOP lawmakers have been more timid about openly embracing the bill.

In the House, Minority Leader Mark Ferrandino, D-Denver, who sponsored the legislation a year ago, had been hoping to find a Republican to sponsor the bill this year but has been unsuccessful so far.