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Civil unions celebrated and criticized on first day

Civil unions at center of Manitou Springs ceremony

MANITOU SPRINGS, Colo. - The pop of champagne at midnight by same-sex couples echoed across Colorado all day and into the night.

Wednesday was the first opportunity for gas and lesbian couples to make their partnership legal in the eyes of the law by entering into a civil union.

Denver recorded 130 applicants around the midnight hour. Boulder had 48.

During regular business hours, clerk and recorders offices saw lots of civil union applicants as well. A spokesman for the office in Pueblo said they had 19 couples filling out the civil union paperwork. In El Paso County, 36 applicants did not want to wait another day to make it official.

Southern Colorado saved the party for Wednesday night. The advocacy group One Colorado hosted a public ceremony at the Business of Arts Center in Manitou Springs for those who waited until after work to tie the knot.

"I'm so excited, we've waited a long time," said Terry Martinez who entered into a civil union with her partner of three years, Shawn Teel.

Martinez and Teel want to share a life together and an insurance policy but up until now have not been able to.

"They don't acknowledge you as a couple so that makes it a little hard when people look at you as different but we're not," said Martinez.

The celebratory spirit rings false for faith-based groups like Focus on the Family. A spokeswoman for their political lobby, Carrie Gordon Earll, said it's just the first step in what they expect to be another fight for gay marriage. It could also hurt organizations like Catholic Charities and their efforts in the adoption industry.

"This law is a threat to the religious freedom- adoption agencies that may have to close their doors because there is no exemption for them," said Gordon Earll.

Earll added that this movement toward gay marriage is a societal ill akin to pregnancies and cohabitation out of wedlock and divorces.

"We must count the cost before we go down the road," said Gordon Earll.

Earll argued that some parts of the civil unions law duplicates some efforts that were already available to same sex partners.  Jon Monteith, spokesman for One Colorado, said a designated beneficiary agreement gives partners limited control in legal matters. Montieth said the civil unions bill is more powerful and not as easy to terminate as a designated beneficiary agreement.

"Civil unions provide comprehensive protections to same-sex couples, whereas designated agreements offer a patchwork of security," said Monteith.

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