Civil Union Act debate begins: Senator Pat Steadman says public is ready for measure
Today at 1:30 p.m., the senate judiciary committee and members of the public will begin discussing Senate Bill 172, the Colorado Civil Union Act, co-sponsored by Senator Pat Steadman: Read it below. Back in 2006, Colorado voters rejected a referendum that would have established many of the same principles upon which SB 172 is based even as they okayed an amendment defining marriage as a bond between one man and one woman. Does Steadman feel optimistic despite these setbacks? His answer: "Of course."
In Steadman's view, "This is something that's very overdue. In two recent opinion polls, 72 percent of Coloradans said they support a law like this. I think that tells us the public is more than ready for it. And I"ve had an overwhelming response from my constituents and people across the state who are very hopeful that this rule becomes law, so that their families and children can have the same protection as other families across Colorado."
For instance, he continues, "there are a lot of protections in the probate court that protect you in times of incapacity or upon the death of a partner that apply automatically to married couples. But they can be rather inconvenient or sometimes impossible for unmarried couples to achieve."
Politicians have had just as tough a time getting a gay marriage law passed in Colorado -- and in some ways, civil unions set up a separate-but-equal system that can be equated to school segregation.
A photo from One Colorado, which supports civil unions.
If he he had his druthers, then, would Steadman prefer a gay marriage law to one legalizing civil unions? He jokes that "the constitution doesn't allow me my druthers" before saying, "I'm fairly confident the language in our state constitution will not stand the test of time." In the meantime, though, he clearly believes civil unions are far preferable to the status quo. "This is something we can do right now to provide very meaningful protections to families and children," he maintains.
He expects to hear from many civil union supporters this afternoon, and he's upbeat about SB 172's odds of approval in the senate, where Democrats hold a solid majority. "But I'm not quite sure what's going to happen when this bill gets over the House of Representatives," he concedes. "That's something I don't have a lot of control over."
Not that he lacks faith in the measure's house sponsor, Mark Ferrandino. "I'm sure he's going to fight very hard," he says -- and he's hopeful some Republicans will ultimately back the bill. But he concedes that "there are some shrill voices on the extremes that aren't there yet. They'd rather play politics with it."
Page down to read SB 172 in its entirety, as well as to see a video and news release from One Colorado, a civil-unions backer.