March 12, 2013 at 1:15 pm EST | by Michael K. Lavers
Colo. House of Representatives approves civil unions bill
Colorado State Capitol (Photo by Steven Kevil via Wikimedia Commons)

Colorado State Capitol (Photo by Steven Kevil via Wikimedia Commons)

The Colorado House of Representatives on Tuesday approved a civil unions bill by a 39-26 vote margin.

“Equality for gay and lesbian citizens in our society is one of the great civil rights frontiers of our time,” Alan Franklin, political director of ProgressNow Colorado, said. “Today’s victory in the Colorado House, giving final passage to these basic rights and obligations for same-sex families, is something progressives have sought for years. It took an election and a change of power, but today we celebrate the result of patient work to change hearts and minds.”

The measure’s passage comes two decades after Colorado voters approved a constitutional amendment that prohibited the state from enacting laws that ban anti-gay discrimination. The U.S. Supreme Court struck it down in 1996.

State Sens. Pat Steadman and Lucia Guzman re-introduced the civil unions bill earlier this year after it stalled in the legislature in 2012. It passed in the chamber on Feb. 11 by a 21-14 vote margin.

Gay House Speaker Mark Ferrandino and state Rep. Sue Schafer sponsored the measure in the House.

“The Colorado legislature has taken a definitive step forward in the march toward equality,” Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin said. “The passage of civil unions in the Centennial State is further proof that full equality for committed and loving gay and lesbian couples is in sight.”

Other national LGBT advocacy groups also welcomed the bill’s passage.

“Over the years, we’ve talked about why fairness matters, and of how discrimination hurts families,” Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, said. “All across Colorado, people have had these personal and poignant conversations around their kitchen tables, in their living rooms, on their front porches, on Facebook and plenty of other places. The transformative nature of people talking about their love and their lives is clear, as we see with this victory today.”

“Another state has taken an important step forward in recognizing and protecting same-sex couples and their families,” Jennifer Pizer of Lambda Legal added.

Delaware, Illinois and Rhode Island are among the handful of states that allow gays and lesbians to enter into civil unions.

Lawmakers in the aforementioned states and in Minnesota and New Jersey continue to debate marriage rights for same-sex couples. Maryland is among the nine states and D.C. in which gays and lesbians can legally tie the knot.

Governor John Hickenlooper has said he will sign the measure into law that would take effect on May 1.

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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