State Update: Colorado (Civil Unions Bill)
Colorado is one of a number of states that are currently facing marriage redefinition challenges. More specifically, a bill has been proposed in Colorado (or rather, re-proposed; it failed last year) that would establish civil unions for two persons of the same sex. As of March 6, the bill has been approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee and the House Finance Committee. According to CBS Denver, the bill could be voted on by the full House as early as next week, the last stop before the governor’s desk.
Two key things to know about the Colorado civil unions bill:
1. This bill IS about redefining marriage.
Don’t let the bill’s name fool you, said Denver Archbishop Samuel Aquila. In a January 23 column for the Denver Catholic Register, Archbishop Aquila wrote, “Make no mistake, the Colorado Civil Unions Act, and all civil union legislation, is an attempt to redefine marriage – to undercut the long-standing human understanding that the stable, fruitful partnerships between men and women should be promoted and protected.”
The Archbishop points out that “in every state where civil union legislation has passed, its proponents have pushed to redefine marriage itself.” One example is Illinois, which approved civil unions in 2011 and is now debating full marriage redefinition.
Archbishop Aquila also pointed out that “in Colorado, same-sex couples can already attain the legal benefits civil unions would bring. The real goal of civil union legislation is social endorsement of same-sex unions, and, soon enough, the redefinition of marriage.” An example of this is Rhode Island, where civil unions were approved in 2011 but met with little enthusiasm, even though the bill granted the same benefits to those who entered civil unions as to married couples. The Rhode Island legislature subsequently proposed full marriage redefinition, which was passed by the House in January 2013 and has yet to be voted on by the Senate.
2. The bill lacks conscience protections
Unlike the civil unions bill proposed – and defeated by one vote – in 2012, the current bill does not include any protections for one group poised to incur serious consequences from its passage: adoption agencies. Language included in the 2012 bill – that the bill “shall not be interpreted to require a child-placement agency to place a child for adoption” with a couple in a civil union – is entirely absent from the 2013 version. Mark Rohlena, president and CEO of Catholic Charities of Central Colorado, said that the bill’s passage could threaten the religious liberty of agencies like his that decline to place children with two persons of the same sex.
Indeed, that prediction is far from unfounded. In several states where civil union or marriage redefinition legislation has been passed – DC, Massachusetts, Illinois – religious adoption agencies that wouldn’t place children with two persons of the same sex have closed down. (See this video for an up-close look at the impact on families and children of foster and adoption agencies’ closing in Illinois.)
The Colorado Catholic Conference opposes the civil unions bill and asks all Colorado citizens to make their opposition known.
- Archbishop Samuel Aquila, “Make no mistake: civil unions a major step in radically redefining marriage” (Jan. 23, 2013)
- Catholic Bishops of Colorado, Statement on Civil Unions (2012)
- Catholic Conference of Illinois, “Promoting Civil Unions to Undermine Marriage” (2009)