On Tuesday, the State Legislature passed a bill that will make civil unions a reality for gay and lesbian couples across Colorado. The bill passed the State House with a 39-26 majority on Tuesday; joining the majority were two House Republicans. On February 11th, the bill passed the State Senate in a 21-14 vote with one Republican voting yes.
For many, this is a chance to celebrate a major accomplishment in the struggle for equality but it isn’t over yet. Senator Pat Steadman pledged to continue the battle for marriage equality (from The Denver Post):
“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.”
In order to achieve marriage equality in Colorado, proponents will have to win over more than just control of the State legislative and executive branches–they’ll need to win the hearts and minds of a majority of Coloradans. In 2006, Colorado Amendment 43, which defined marriage as between one man and one woman, passed with a 55% majority. It’s definitely possible for marriage equality proponents to win over Colorado’s electorate; however, they may want to take care in making their case. It may be worth the extra effort to craft their message in a way that is sensitive to those that believe that ‘marriage’ is a religious sacrament–if they can successfully do that then they’ll establish a model for more quickly winning support for marriage equality across the country.