Civil union bill killed in Colorado

By Advocate.com Editors

Originally published on Advocate.com February 07 2003 12:00 AM ET

A committee in the Colorado house of representatives has killed a measure that would have created civil unions as an alternative to marriage for gays, similar to a 2000 Vermont law. The panel voted 8-3, with two Democrats joining the Republicans, against House Bill 1141, sponsored by Rep. Tom Plant (D-Nederland). The vote came after the information and technology committee's chairman, Rep. Shawn Mitchell (R-Broomfield), said he believed the bill would undermine the institution of marriage. "The bill attempts to create the substance of marriage without the label," Mitchell said. "All experience and all statistics show that when a man and a woman stay together with their children, the children grow up happier and better equipped to deal with life."

Plant countered that because same-sex relationships are virtually identical to heterosexual marriage, they should be treated the same as marriage under the U.S. Constitution's guarantee of equal protection under the law. He tried to preempt arguments like Mitchell's, saying that just as gay people are barred from getting married, heterosexual couples would be barred from being joined in a civil union. Plant said his bill would create a parallel but equal form of relationship for same-sex couples.

But Mitchell said that granting civil unions the same rights and benefits as marriages would make them essentially the same as marriage and that, in that case, the name of the relationship doesn't matter. "When society multiplies such relationships, it undermines the one institution that society depends on, and that is heterosexual marriage," Mitchell said.