A bill to allow civil unions for gay couples in Colorado must survive two more votes in the Republican-led House before it gets to the governor's desk, but it appears closer than in any other year to becoming law.
If the legislation passes, Colorado would join more than a dozen states that allow gay marriage or civil unions. Hawaii and Delaware began allowing civil unions earlier this year.
The measure does not allow gay marriage but does grant gay couples rights similar to marriage, including enhanced inheritance and parental rights, and the ability to be involved in partner's medical decisions.
So far Colorado Democrats have been able to advance the bill past two Republican-led House committees. The finance committee approved the measure with a 7-6 vote Friday after the bill passed the House judiciary committee late Thursday.
Rep. Don Beezley was the only Republican to support the measure on the finance panel.
"For me, it really came down to that basic issue of fairness and doing the right thing," Beezley said, echoing a similar comment made by Republican Rep. B.J. Nikkel, who joined Democrats on the judiciary committee in approving the measure.
The bill now goes before the appropriations committee. Democrats on that panel unanimously support the bill and need at least one Republican to vote yes for it to go to the full House.
Republican Rep. Cheri Gerou, a member of the appropriations committee, previously said she supports the measure.
Republicans have a 33-32 vote advantage in the House. But given the committee votes, where Republicans joined Democrats, the bill could have enough support for passage.
"I'm very excited," said a smiling Rep. Mark Ferrandino, a Democrat and gay lawmaker sponsoring the bill. "We're one step closer today than we were yesterday, and yesterday we were one step closer than we've ever been."
The state Senate has already approved the bill and it could reach Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper by Wednesday, when the session ends. He is firmly in support.
Republicans who oppose the bill said it undermines traditional marriage and that voters expressed their position on the issue when they banned same-sex marriage in 2006.
Earlier Friday, Republican House Speaker Frank McNulty gave his colleagues a pointed warning from the podium, urging them not to attack the motives of legislators on pending legislation. He later told The Associated Press he was referring to the civil unions bill.
McNulty accused Senate Democrats of purposely taking months to move the bill to the House to force a decision within the final days of the legislative session.
"I think that there are those in the Democratic Party that want to make sure that this issue is a political issue in November," he said, referring to the upcoming election.
Beezley and Nikkel are not running for re-election.
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Senate Bill 2: http://goo.gl/GR9y4