The Colorado House voted on Tuesday to allow gay couples to form civil unions after Speaker Mark Ferrandino, a gay Denver Democrat who has carried the bill for three straight years, ferociously defended the bill in a lengthy debate on Monday.
Ferrandino struggled to hold back tears when he chastised Republicans for attempting to add religious exemptions to Senate Bill 11, or to send it to a vote of the people.
All 37 Democrats and two of the 28 Republicans supported civil unions.
"This is an historic moment," said Rep. Pete Lee, D-Colorado Springs, who said the date will be remembered in history much like the recognition of Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday.
"History tells us that societies that do not respect the freedom of conscience will not long endure," said Rep. Bob Gardner, R-Colorado Springs, who unsuccessfully tried to get religious exemptions added to the bill.
This is the third year in a row that Ferrandino and gay Denver Democrat Sen. Pat Steadman have sponsored a civil unions bill. The civil unions bill died in 2011 in the GOP-controlled House Judiciary Committee. In 2012, Ferrandino had the votes to pass it but then Speaker Frank McNulty, R-Highlands Ranch, refused to call it up for a debate and the bill died in dramatic fashionon the second to last night of the session.
Senate Bill 11 has already clearedthe Democratic-controlled Senate, and after Tuesday's vote the bill will go to Democratic Gov. Hickenlooper who has long been supportive of gay rights.
The bill would become law on May 1.