Colo. Senate gives initial OK to same-sex benefits

Posted on 25 Feb 2009 at 10:57am
By Colleen Slevin Associated Press

Republicans oppose measure, say it violates the will of the voters

DENVER — The partners of gay and lesbian state workers would be able to get health insurance coverage under a bill given initial backing by the Senate on Monday, Feb. 23.

The measure (Senate Bill 88) would add domestic partners to the list of dependents eligible for coverage. Same-sex partners who have been in a committed partnership with a state employee for at least a year would qualify as a domestic partner.

Sponsor Sen. Jennifer Veiga, D-Denver, said it was a "fair and equitable" step that would help Colorado compete for employees with businesses and other states that offer such coverage. She also said 17 Colorado counties and cities already offer such benefits.

But some Republican senators who opposed the bill said it violates the will of the voters. Two years ago, voters rejected Referendum I, which would have granted domestic partner status to same-sex couples. They also passed a constitutional ban on gay marriage.

Sen. Greg Brophy, R-Wray, ran down a list of the margins by which Referendum I had failed in several districts.

Sen. Scott Renfroe, R-Greeley, said he opposed the bill because it goes against his religious beliefs. He quoted Bible verses about creation and homosexuality during the debate.

"Homosexuality is seen as a violation of this natural created law, and it is an offense to God," he said.

Veiga, who is a lesbian, said she respected Renfroe’s beliefs but didn’t share them. She also said that lawmakers have to do what’s best for all people and can’t always follow their own moral beliefs.

"God also created me, and the last time I checked I am who I am, people. If that doesn’t reconcile with how you view the world, I’m sorry. But I don’t always see the world the way others see it as well," she said.

Veiga said the bill is about extending health care only to an estimated 79 people and doesn’t address any of the rights, such as tax benefits, available to married couples.

Fiscal analysts estimate that the change will cost about $116,000 a year in both federal and state dollars.

The measure must pass another vote before it can be sent to the House.

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