Local Reaction to Civil Union Bill
KREX News Room
GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. - As soon as Gov. John Hickenlooper pens the final approval, Colorado will become the ninth state to legalize civil unions for gay couples.
"Finally. After three years of work, it's finally, finally, passed," said Jerry Shelton, board president of Western Equality.
"It's just amazing to see this happen this year ... it feels really good," added Heidi Hess, the Western Slope field director for One Colorado.
One Colorado is an equality advocacy group that worked with lawmakers to get the bill passed.
"It took hundreds of thousands of volunteer hours throughout the state, in all four corners of the state," explained Hess.
"It takes a lot of people to get things pushed through, no matter how small they think it is," added Shelton.
Mesa County officials are now busy preparing for new paperwork for civil union license seekers, which will be available May 1.
"It's really the vital statistics office that drafts and approves the format of the forms ... the application process is the same for marriage licenses as it is for civil union licenses," said Jackie Campbell, division director with the Mesa County Clerk and Recorder's office.
Hess has been planning her union since last year's bill failed.
"Just having a family celebration of our relationship [is going to mean so much]," she said.
Hess is thrilled at the strides made so far. But, a civil union is not equal to a marriage.
Civil unions do not receive federal benefits. They do, however, entitle their participants to state tax benefits, medical, funeral, burial and beneficiary rights, as well as immunity from testifying against a partner in court.
Nine other states have legalized gay marriage. For now, the local LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community is celebrating this step.
"Civil unions is just such a big victory that I think that's what we're all focusing on right now," Hess said, when asked if she wanted to push for gay marriage legalization in Colorado.
Officials say Mesa County could be fairly popular for civil unions due to its proximity to bordering states. However, the licenses will only be valid in Colorado.