Colorado legislators have taken a historic vote to approve civil unions for gay couples, delivering on a campaign promise from Democrats who have capitalised on the changing political landscape of a state where voters banned same-sex marriage not long ago.
The bill on its way to Democratic governor John Hickenlooper is expected to be signed into law within two weeks, capping a three-year fight over a proposal to grant gay couples rights similar to marriage.
Civil unions for gay couples became a rallying cry for Democrats, who took control of the Colorado legislature in last year’s elections. Democrats control both chambers and the party elected Colorado’s first openly gay House speaker, Mark Ferrandino.
The vote marks a dramatic political shift in Colorado, a western state with deep conservative roots that has become more moderate over the past decade.
In 2006, voters approved a gay-marriage ban – meaning civil unions are the only option for gay couples in the state for now. That could change with a US supreme court ruling on gay marriage bans in the coming months.
Colorado‘s measure grants gay couples rights similar to marriage, including enhanced inheritance and parental rights. People in civil unions also would have the ability to make medical decisions for their partners.
Republicans opposed the bill, saying they would have liked to see religious exemptions to provide legal protections for those opposed to civil unions.
Democrats contend the Republican suggestions to amend the bill would have opened the door to discrimination. Under the bill churches are not required to perform civil unions but Republicans wanted broader protections to include businesses and adoption agencies.
Republicans also argued civil unions were too similar to marriage and that they would undermine the institution of marriage