Colorado Senate backs civil unions for same-sex couples

DENVER Thu Mar 24, 2011 9:08pm EDT

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DENVER (Reuters) - A bill in the Colorado legislature that would grant same-sex couples civil unions with certain legal rights passed the Democrat-controlled Senate on Thursday.

But the bill still faces a hurdle in the House of Representatives, where Republicans hold the majority.

The Colorado Civil Unions Act would give gays and lesbians power to make medical decisions for their partners and become eligible for insurance and retirement benefits.

"Civil unions will allow same-sex couples to equally participate in the protections and responsibilities available to other families in Colorado," Senator Pat Steadman, a Democrat and the bill's sponsor, said after the vote.

The bill passed the Senate on a 23-12 vote with unanimous support from Democrats. Three Republicans voted for it.

House Speaker Frank McNulty, a Republican, could not be reached for comment. But he said earlier in the legislative session that he would give the bill a fair hearing in committee, where it must be considered before being sent to the full House for an up-or-down vote.

Governor John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, has indicated he will sign the bill into law should it reach his desk.

In 2006, Colorado voters rejected a statewide ballot measure to legalize same-sex marriage.

(Reporting by Keith Coffman; Editing by Alex Dobuzinskis and Jerry Norton)

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