The Colorado house approved a bill to legalize civil unions for same-sex couples on Tuesday, and Gov. John Hickenlooper is expected to sign the bill into law.
Passing the legislation was a key move for Democrats, who took control of the House in the 2012 election. The house chamber erupted in applause when House Democrats and two Republicans voted in favor of the bill, with the final count at 39-26.
"We really do stand on the edge of history," Rep. Pete Lee said, according to the Associated Press. "For some in this chamber, this is the reason why we are here."
The Colorado Civil Union Act is a particular landmark, as the state voted to constitutionally ban same-sex marriages seven years ago.
"Across the country, we've seen a sea change in public opinion on this issue," said Brad Clark, Executive Director of One Colorado, said in a statement Monday after the house approved second passage of the bill. "A vast majority of Coloradans support providing committed same-sex couples with the security they need, and these fair-minded folks are glad to see civil unions finally passed."
The law will take effect May 1. Colorado will be the18th state, plus the District of Columbia to offer comprehensive benefits and obligations to same-sex couples through either marriage, civil unions, or domestic partnerships, according to the Human Rights Campaign.
"The Colorado legislature has taken a definitive step forward in the march toward equality," HRC President Chad Griffin said in a statement. "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. From now on LGBT couples in Colorado will no longer be legal strangers in the eyes of their state, but rather recognized and supported by the law."
The bill was sponsored by senators Pat Steadman, who is gay, and Lucia Guzman in the Senate, and openly gay House Speaker Mark Ferrandino and Rep. Sue Schafer in the House of Representatives. It passed the senate last month 21-14.