Colorado Becomes 18th State to Recognize Same-Sex Partnerships

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On Thursday, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper signed a bill into law that allows same-sex partners to enter into civil unions, granting them many rights previously granted to only married couples. Here are the details.

* According to Sen. Pat Steadman, D-Denver, the state has "come a long way from the dark days of 1992, when voters added a discriminatory provision to the Colorado Constitution that excluded gays and lesbians from equal protection under state law."

* Steadman was referring to Amendment 2. According to a February posting by Michael Roberts of the Denver Westword, the state passed Amendment 2 to prohibit governmental entities from providing protection against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. The Supreme Court ruled the law unconstitutional, stating that it violated the Equal Protection Clause as it singled out a certain class of citizens for disfavored legal status.

* Colorado's new law allows partners of either sex to obtain a civil union license that -- similar to a marriage license -- is certified and filed with the vital statistics office, the state Senate Majority Office explained.

* A civil union will afford partners in Colorado the responsibility to financially support one another; property rights; protections against discrimination based on spousal status; rights within the probate laws; the ability to adopt a partner's child; protections under domestic violence laws; legal rights relating to medical care, treatment and hospital visitation; and eligibility for family leave benefits, as well as other rights.

* According to the law, civil unions cannot be entered into by people who are related to each other or who are under the age of 18 years.

* Like marriage, dissolving a civil union or obtaining a legal separation from a civil union must undertake dissolution or separation proceedings through district court including property division, maintenance, child support and allocation of parental responsibilities.

* The bill's House co-sponsor, Speaker Mark Ferrandino, D-Denver -- one of eight gay or lesbian members of the Colorado General Assembly -- stated on Thursday that the passage of the law warms his heart as he knows that his family will have the protections "just like any other family."

* Colorado is the ninth state to create a policy allowing civil unions, the Senate Majority Office reported. Nine other states and Washington, D.C. allow same-sex couples to marry.

* The law will take effect on May 1.

* "It is an historic day because we are expanding equal rights to all Coloradans," said House co-sponsor, Rep. Sue Schafer, D-Wheat Ridge, of the law. "What a great day to be a Coloradan!"

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