The GLBTQ Resource Center welcomed One Colorado and Colorado Rep. Hullinghorst for a panel discussing the Civil Union Bill, a bill that would allow same-sex couples the right to enter into civil unions.
CU’s GLBTQ Resource Center organized a Civil Unions Bill panel discussion that was led by Daniel Ramos, the Director of Organizing and Alliance Building at One Colorado and Dickey Lee Hullinghorst, a representative for the state of Colorado. The event was held Wednesday night at 5:30 p.m. in Norlin Library’s British and Irish Studies Room.
One Colorado is “a statewide advocacy organization dedicated to securing and protecting equality and opportunity for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender [LGBT] Coloradans and their families.”
Representative Hullinghorst, who has been working with gay rights during her time as a Colorado state representative, gave a brief history of the state of Colorado and Boulder County’s experience with gay rights and civil unions. She spoke about Amendment Two, a bill that was passed in 1992 that sought to revoke anti-discrimination laws.
According to Rep. Hullinghorst, the bill stated that, “gay, lesbian and bisexuals did not have equal rights, which is unconstitutional.”
Daniel Ramos discussed One Colorado’s progress with GLBTQ rights and getting the Colorado community involved in advocacy. The organization launched in spring 2010 from Equal Rights Colorado and has worked on GLBTQ pride, community building, working with legislature, elections and state wide advocacy.
“When we first started, we started with a statewide needs assessment,” Ramos said. Noting that One Colorado began working on improving things like relationship recognition and LGBT health.
Ramos presented a timeline of the Civil Unions Bill and its movement through state legislators.
In Fall 2011, One Colorado developed an “Adopt-a-Legislature” program in an effort to “make LGBT people visible.” Then, at a 2012 Legislative Session, the Civil Unions Bill was killed, along with 30 other bills in a House of Representatives floor battle.
“I think we’re going to bump into the issue of states versus federal rights,” Ramos said of the Civil Unions Bill. “There are a lot of questions. The Colorado version of Civil Unions provides 27 rights and protections, whereas the federal provision provides around 1,300.”
The bill, Ramos said, “covers things like health of a partner, such as end-of-life decisions, hospital visitation, being able to inherit estate, and responsibilities like adopting and sharing financial responsibilities.”
With the Civil Unions Bill in place, same-sex couples “will be able to get a civil union in any county in Colorado,” Ramos said. “Another thing we’re working on is a civil unions FAQ sheet to help guide people through the process… Civil Unions is a legal document, mostly.”
Ramos noted that many gay couples have marriage ceremonies in churches, but legally, their marriage is not recognized. While discussing reasons why representatives have attempted to kill the Civil Unions Bill, one of the main arguments was a claim of “religious freedom.”
Rep. Hullinghorst countered Ramos’ statement saying, “Religious freedom is such a bogus argument. There is no such thing as discriminating against another person because of your religion. It is a reverse argument that I find hard to understand. That is not a protected right under the U.S. Constitution.”
Nikki Gaisbauer, a 20-year-old junior sociology and political science major, found the discussion to be enlightening.
“I learned a lot of historical facts about Colorado’s political battle of marriage and civil unions,” Gaisbauer said. “I wanted to come because I plan on working on sex, gender and sexuality issues so I thought this was relevant.”
Nicholas Trevino, a 21-year-old senior political science and history major, is an intern at New Era Colorado who with a group from the GLBTQ Resource Center came to listen to the discussion.
“We decided to have a group come down tonight and sit in on the panel to get more background on what civil unions in Colorado would look like,” Trevion said. “To actually hear Rep. Hullinghorst go through what happened in the 2012 Legislative Session from a first-hand point of view was cool to see and hear.”
Both Daniel Ramos and Rep. Hullinghorst seemed hopeful for the future of GLBTQ rights.
“We’re seeing polling shift around marriages, but not as quickly as we did around civil unions,” Daniel Ramos said of his hope for the future that civil unions will be recognized as marriages. He noted that the term “marriage” for gay couples has had a more difficult time gaining support because of “the religious connotation surrounded by marriage.”
Progress is being made in education as well. Ramos, who has worked with schools, said, “Education is leading the way in terms of working with LGBT people and acting as a safe haven.”
For more information about One Colorado or the legislative process that the civil union bill has gone through click here.
Contact CU Independent Assistant Breaking News Editor Alyx Saupe at Alyx.firstname.lastname@example.org.