DENVER Senators voted Wednesday to create civil unions for lesbian and gay couples.
Approval of Senate Bill 2 in the Democratic-controlled Senate was a foregone conclusion. The bill needs to pass a final vote before it heads to the House, where it will face its true test. A similar bill died in a House committee last year.
The sponsor, Sen. Pat Steadman, D-Denver, spoke for 50 minutes to start debate about his bill. Steadman is gay, and his partner and mother sat in the Senate chamber during the debate.
Public opinion about gay rights has shifted rapidly, Steadman said.
Senate Bill 2 is a bill whose time has come. It is a bill I believe Colorado is ready for, Steadman said.
Sponsors also tried to attract a possible new supporter, Sen. Shawn Mitchell, R-Broomfield, who had been a leading critic of gay rights on religious grounds.
Mitchell said he worries about the dissolution of the nuclear family, but arguments that gay relationships harm heterosexual marriages have become less convincing to him.
However, Mitchell wound up not voting for the bill after one of his amendments was voted down.
Sen. Scott Renfroe, R-Greeley, made one of the few arguments against SB 2 Wednesday morning.
I think our Founding Fathers were very clear about what they said about morality, about religion, Renfroe said.
Some opponents are saving their arguments for the final vote, which could happen as soon as today.
Opponents say the bill violates the state constitution, which limits marriage to one man and one woman, but Steadman disputed that argument, saying a civil union is not a marriage.
It falls far, far short. It is lesser, separate and unequal. And yet it is something that thousands of couples across the state long for and want to have, he said.
A civil union is not what little girls dream about when they play dress-up in long, white dresses, Steadman said.
For example, couples in a civil union would not be able to file a joint income tax return, he said.
Last year in the Senate, the bill got support from all 20 Democrats, plus the three Republican women in the chamber.
Sen. Nancy Spence, R-Centennial, spoke up for SB 2 on Wednesday.
As Republicans, were proud of our leadership in protecting civil liberties, Spence said. The Republican Party, the party of Lincoln, must continue to champion civil liberties.