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Colorado Senate passes civil unions bill

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • The measure would give same-sex couples many rights married residents now have
  • The legislation now goes to state House
  • Voters put down domestic partnership measure in 2006
  • Human Rights Campaign applauds Senate vote

(CNN) -- The Colorado Senate on Thursday approved a civil unions bill that would allow same-sex couples the right to inherit property, apply for family leave and share medical decisions.

The bill, approved 23-12, now goes to the House.

In Colorado, only a man and woman can marry. The bill would allow two unmarried adults, regardless of gender, to enter into a civil union.

Senate Bill 172 is intended to allowed eligible citizens "to obtain the benefits, protections, and responsibilities afforded by Colorado law to spouses with the principles of equality under law and religious freedom embodied in both the United States Constitution and the constitution of this state," its sponsors said.

Colorado voters turned down a domestic partnership measure in 2006.

The Human Rights Campaign, which calls itself the nation's largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization, commended Thursday's vote.

"Legislators in Colorado have taken an important action to advance equality for all Coloradans," President Joe Solmonese said in a statement. "We call on the Colorado House to swiftly follow the Senate's lead on this crucial legislation."

According to the Human Rights Campaign, California, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon and Washington provide same-sex couples with access to almost of all the state-level benefits and responsibilities of marriage, through either civil unions or domestic partnerships. The governors of Hawaii and Illinois signed civil union bills this year.