DENVER - Colorado lawmakers took a historic vote to approve civil unions for gay couples Tuesday, delivering on a campaign promise from Democrats who have capitalized on the changing political landscape of a state where voters banned same-sex marriage not long ago.
The bill on its way to the desk of Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper is expected to be signed into law within two weeks, capping a three-year fight over a proposal to grant gay couples rights similar to marriage.
Applause erupted in the Capitol as the bill won final passage on a 39-26 House vote, with two Republicans joining all Democrats to approve the measure. Several dozen people watching from the House gallery left smiling and hugging, and some wiped away tears of joy.
Colorado Representative Dominick Moreno, D-Commerce City, gets a hug from Rep Brittany Petteren, D-Lakewood, following the vote on Senate Bill 11 in the Colorado House of Representatives in Denver, Tuesday.
Once the measure is signed, Colorado will join eight states that have civil unions or similar laws. Nine states and the District of Columbia allow gay marriage.
"This is the best step toward equality Colorado could take right now. I'm thankful we got it done," said Katy Jensen, a 34-year-old Denver engineer who plans a civil union with her partner after the bill becomes law on May 1.
Last year, Democratic Sen. Jessie Ulibarri, a gay lawmaker serving his first term, was among those in the House gallery with his children, watching as Republicans used their one-vote majority in the House to prevent the measure from being debated in the waning hours of the session, thus killing the bill.