Same-sex couples flock to county clerk's office for civil union licenses
Same-sex couples flocked to the El Paso County Clerk's Office for their civil unions license. Wednesday was the first day Colorado same-sex couples could apply for the license.
Same-sex couples were lined up outside the El Paso County Clerk's Office before doors opened at 8 a.m. By noon, the clerk's office handed out 26 licenses to couples throughout the county.
Gov. Hickenlooper signed the same-sex unions bill into law in March but it went into effect May 1.
Bryan See and Pat Idoux were the first people given a civil union license in El Paso County.
"It's surreal," said See.
The couple fell in love 15 years ago. They had a commitment ceremony 12 years ago. Despite the ceremony, their relationship wasn't legally recognized by the state. To them, the license offers security.
"I've had issues in the past where I have been in the hospital so this prevents a hospital really from kicking [Idoux] out," said See.
Andrew Leahan met Ryan Bishop two years ago.
"It's a huge relief, it felt like we could finally be equal, that we're not looked down upon. That we're not somebody different," said Bishop.
"We're no longer second class citizens, it was an amazing feeling," said Leahan.
They planned to tie the knot in front of a judge Wednesday afternoon. The two said the pre-ceremony nerves started as they signed on the dotted line at the clerk's office. Leahan credited couples like See and Idoux for paving the way for more rights for same sex couples.
"We haven't even come close to the struggle that they have. It's a great feeling to be able to be here today and know that all those that have come before us put us here," said Leahan. "All of their struggles and all of their advocating, it really wouldn't have been possible. I thank all of them."
See is a tax preparer. He hopes Senate Bill 11 will lead to more same-sex couple rights in the future.
"When I prepare taxes for people from California, they get all these tax benefits that we don't have in Colorado. So I would hope that's coming down the road," said See. "Colorado depends very much on federal laws so unless DOMA -- the Defense of Marriage Act -- is struck, Colorado doesn't really have the ability to give us any tax benefits."
The Supreme Court is expected to rule on gay marriage in June. See said in his eyes, civil unions and gay marriage are separate issues.
"States and counties need to acknowledge the legitimacy of the relationship just for legal protection purposes only. This isn't about offending somebody's faith or anything like that. That's a religious ceremony that you have with your religious leader at your church. They're separate issues as far as I'm concerned," said See.
One Colorado plans to host civil union ceremonies at 6 p.m. at the Business of Arts Center off Manitou Avenue in Manitou Springs. Rev. Nori Rost from All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church and Rev. Wes Mullins from Pikes Peak Metropolitan Community Church will preside over the ceremonies. One Colorado will host a public reception at 7 p.m. in Colorado Springs' Underground on Nevada Avenue.
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