Civil unions bill inches forward

DENVER — Civil unions for gay and lesbian couples took another improbable step forward in the Republican-led House on Friday afternoon, and the sponsor says he has enough votes to pass the bill.

Senate Bill 2 allows gay couples to get many of the same rights as married people. It survived a tight vote Thursday night in the House Judiciary Committee, thanks to support from Loveland Republican Rep. B.J. Nikkel.

On Friday, it was Broomfield Republican Rep. Don Beezley’s turn in the spotlight. He voted with the six Democrats on the House Finance Committee to pass the bill 7-6.

“It really does come down to basic equity and fairness for human beings,” Beezley told reporters after the vote. “If the worst thing that happens in our society is that we have more people committing to long-term, meaningful, loving relationships, I think that’s a good thing.”

An opponent, Rep. Cindy Acree, R-Aurora, pointed to the 2006 election, where Colorado voters rejected a domestic partnerships ballot measure and amended the state constitution to declare that marriage is between one man and one woman.

“We had an election not too long ago where the voters said they did not want to initiate a marriage in this capacity or expand the definition of a marriage,” Acree said.

But the sponsor, Rep. Mark Ferrandino, D-Denver, thinks his bill is on track to pass.

The next stop is the House Appropriations Committee, and Ferrandino said he has talked to several Republican members of the panel who are open to the bill.

The vote is likely to happen Tuesday morning. If it passes, the last stop would be the House floor, where Ferrandino predicted every Democrat and more than enough Republicans will vote to pass the bill.

The Legislature’s annual session ends Wednesday, but Ferrandino said that leaves plenty of time to pass SB 2 as long as House leadership does not delay it.

The House’s Republican leaders opposes the bill, but so far they have not used the procedural tools at their disposal to kill the bill through delays.