Rocky Mountain High


On May 1st, 2013, same sex couples in Colorado will be able to obtain a civil union by going to their county clerk or recorder.

On May 1st, 2013, same sex couples in Minnesota will be able to renew their driver’s license or get a fishing permit, but they will not be able to ask the state to recognize their relationship.

From Lynn Bartels at the Denver Post on March 22, 2013:

“The atmosphere at the bill-signing was electric, with huge cheers when lawmakers and the governor took to the small stage. Senate Bill 11 gives same-sex couples many but not all of the rights and responsibilities of marriage. It goes into effect May 1.”

Many people have argued getting civil unions aren’t an acceptable alternative.  They would rather have same sex marriage or nothing at all.  In Colorado, same sex marriage wasn’t an option yet.  Colorado amended its state constitution to limit marriage to a man and a woman in 2006.  But, instead of accepting nothing, the people of Colorado created a new category for same sex couples.  This fight started three years ago, but this year they got recognition starting with their state senate.

Bartels reports on February 11, 2013, again from the Denver Post:

“Lawmakers often are silent during the official vote, simply voting “yes” or “no,” but often on high-profile bills there is another round of debate before the vote.

But there was no further debate Monday, perhaps because it was the third time in three years the Senate has debated the measure.”

The bill passed the senate after three years of intense discussion.  There were numerous committee hearings and public testimony. It finally came down to passage of something that provided a mechanism for same sex couples to register their relationships.  Then came the house vote.

The Colorado house passed it overwhelmingly 39 to 26.  In spite of this achievement, the senate sponsor of the bill had this to say:

“Sen. Pat Steadman, D-Denver, who has sponsored the civil-unions bill for three years, said its passage is the high point of a decades-long struggle.

“Yet we’re not there yet. I don’t want anyone to think that we somehow reached the peak,” Steadman said. “Civil unions are not marriage. They are something that are separate and distinct and lesser and unequal, and that really is not good enough.” Denver Post, March 13, 2013, Lynn Bartels, ‘Colorado House passes civil unions, but fans note marriage is equality’

The civil union legislation in Colorado certainly wasn’t perfect.  It could have been better.  Certainly the civil union bill introduced in Minnesota by Rep. Tim Kelly is a clean, straight forward bill that provides equal benefits and obligations.  But in Colorado, it was better than nothing as explained by some legislators.

“The eight gay lawmakers were asked whether they planned to enter a civil union. Five raised their hands. Steadman, whose partner, Dave Misner, died in September after a brief battle with pancreatic cancer, wasn’t one of them.

“Some of us,” Steadman said quietly, ” don’t get that opportunity.”

Now, Minnesota isn’t Colorado.  Colorado did pass their Marriage Amendment and Colorado is the state that banned GLBT anti-discrimination laws through Amendment 2 in 1992.   That was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in Romer v. Evans.  This would suggest Colorado, at least in the past, was less likely to recognize same sex relationship and gay rights.  Now Colorado has given the GLBT community a legal device for the state to accept the life partnership decisions of couples.

On March 21, 2013, Bartels of the Denver Post reports finalization of the civil union law.

“Amid cheers and tears, Gov. John Hickenlooper on Thursday signed a civil-unions bill into law, erasing a generation of anguish for supporters of gay rights in what once was dubbed “the hate state.”

“Unbelievable,” Hickenlooper said, looking at the gays and straight allies who were crammed into the History Colorado Center to watch history being made.”

With the stroke of a pen, Colorado leaped ahead of Minnesota in recognition of its GLBT citizens.  Meanwhile, back in St. Paul, we are hearing the votes are simply not there in the state house.  Instead of moving the issue forward, some activists have insisted it needs to be same sex marriage or nothing.  But, I fear it may be even worse than that.

As the legislative session draws to a close, let’s consider which strategy was overall more effective.  Colorado embraced the recognition of same sex couples and with it the GLBT community.  In Minnesota harsh lines were drawn.  Strident rhetoric has enflamed both sides.  The divide in this state is even wider.  Do we gain recognition of our relationships only to marginalize ourselves?  Are the strategies employed giving us a wider acceptance in society or are we now seen as an adversary?  These are bigger questions to consider.  Let’s not forget them.


Contact Your Politicians
Governor Mark Dayton
Phone: (651) 201-3400
Email: (Web Contact Form)

Senator Tom Bakk
Phone: (651) 296-8881
Email: [email protected]

Representative Paul Thissen
Phone: (651) 296-5375
Email: [email protected]

Representative Erin Murphy
Phone: (651) 296-5496
Email:  [email protected]

See also:
“The DFL’s Big Gay Farce” from Issue 457, November 29, 2012
“Three of Four Top Elected Minnesota Politicians Comment on the Marriage Debate” from Issue 458, December 13, 2012
“‘Earnest Money:’ Repeal DOMA Now” from Issue 458, December 13, 2012
“Why We Can’t Wait” an Interview with Sen. John Marty from Issue 460, January 10, 2013
Waiting for Superman” from Issue 460, January 10, 2013
“Don’t Skip Dessert” an Interview with Rep. Ryan Winkler from Issue 461, January 24, 2013
“What’s In A Name?” A Case for Civil Unions from Issue 461, January 24, 2013
Outreach: Conversation with Rep. Andrea Kieffer (R)” from Issue 462, February 7, 2013
Carrie Chapman Catt’s Winning Plan” from Issue 462, February 7, 2013
“Our Family Albums” from Issue 463, February 21, 2013
Talking Strategy with Richard Carlbom [of Minnesotans United for All Families]” from Issue 463, February 21, 2013
Vanguard” from Issue 464, March 7, 2013
Beating the Clock” from Issue 466, April 4, 2013
Rocky Mountain High” from Issue 467, April 18, 2013
The Elephant in the Room” from Issue 467, April 18, 2013

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