When the Colorado voted to ban same-sex marriage in 2006, many involved were dismayed; in Denver, Colorado Springs, Boulder, and across the entire state gay and lesbian couples in a committed, healthy relationship were denied the right to legal recognition of their partnership, and thus, the formal benefits and privileges that heterosexual couples enjoy.
This inequity in family law appears to be shifting in the state’s current legislative session. Led by strong push by Democratic representatives, lawmakers voted to approve the allowance of civil unions for same-sex couples in Colorado. All that remains is for Governor Hickenlooper to sign the bill, which would allow for civil unions to begin as soon as May 1st.
The measure will set Colorado within the ranks of a dozen other states that have civil union laws on the books. Currently six states nationwide allow for full-fledged gay marriage, while numerous others are currently debating bills that would extend marriage rights to same-sex couples.
Reacting to the bill’s passing, some house Republicans protested that civil unions would undermine traditional, heterosexual marriage in Colorado, claiming that unions were too practically similar to marriage.
For the moment, the 2006 marriage ban still remains firmly in place across the state; civil unions are as close as lawmakers could come in opening up equitable partnership recognition for same-sex couples. However, the U.S. Supreme Court stands poised to rule on the banning of gay marriage in the coming months. Such a decision could overrule specific state measures and, potentially, legalize gay marriage in all 50 states.
Some may argue that the civil union measure goes too far, others not far enough. However, as Colorado legislators and voters begin to acknowledge and respect same-sex families, it will only become more and more clear that critical issues of family law including child custody agreements, possible asset division in the case of separation, and even child support and alimony are real issues for gay and straight couples alike. For those who find themselves in one of these situations, contacting a family law attorney should be an immediate priority.
Source: Fox News, “Colorado lawmakers approve civil unions for gay couples,” March 12, 2013