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Civil unions on track to be one of 2013's first laws

Colorado's civil unions bill on track to become law

DENVER - A civil unions law for same-sex couples got initial approval in the Colorado Senate Friday, and is on track to becoming one of 2013's first laws.

The bill is expected, even by opponents, to pass in the Senate on Monday and go on to clear the House and be signed into law by Governor John Hickenlooper. The measure was a top priority for Democrats who took over the state Legislature.

"We've been excited through the whole process and especially today," said Sarah Musick.

Musick and her partner, Erika Highstead, had a commitment ceremony in May, but said there are many reasons why a legal union is important. They said when Musick was seriously injured, their complete lack of rights was brought to the forefront.

"If she were to have been incapacitated --thankfully she's still here --I wouldn't have had the right to say what's going to happen to her," said Highstead.

"We can accomplish as much on a legal stance as friends could," said Musick. "And that's nothing."

But while some see the civil unions bill as promoting equality, others argue it discriminates against religious groups by forcing them to act against their beliefs.

The CEO of Catholic Charities of Central Colorado says, under the Senate bill, the group would have to provide adoption services to same-sex couples or risk losing public funding.

"There seemed to be no discomfort in using the bill to discriminate against religious organizations," said Mark Rohlena. "And force them to operate outside their religious beliefs or go out of business."

He said he hopes the bill will be amended in the House to provide protections for religious groups. 

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