Colorado's House Majority Leader Dickey Lee Hullinghorst and University of Colorado graduate Daniel Ramos urged a group of about 25 students on Wednesday night on the CU-Boulder campus to support the Colorado Civil Union Act, which is expected to be signed into law by May 1.
Representative Hullinghorst, D-Boulder, began the discussion with history about the storied Colorado debate, which she said began in 1975 and will hopefully end this year. If legislation is passed, more rights and responsibilities will be extended to same-sex couples in Colorado -- such as end of life decisions, inheritance, adoption rights and responsibilities, among others.
This would expand the state's current domestic partnership registration, said Ramos, a representative of LGBT advocacy group One Colorado.
"Civil unions would give 27 new protections to same-sex couples," Ramos said. "But that's still minimal compared to the more than 1,300 rights that come with marriage at the federal level."
In addition to the rights that will accompany the passage of civil unions, Ramos said the respect and dignity of recognizing same-sex relationships at this level could make the biggest impact in the state.
Some opponents of the bill said it violates religious freedoms, an argument that Hullinghorst said was "bogus" on Wednesday, which garnered verbal affirmation from many of the students in attendance.
The bill would extend rights, not hinder them, Hullinghorst said.
Civil unions would mean progress for the LGBT and allied communities, Ramos said.
Tyler Quick, a CU student government vice president, said besides extending rights to students with same-sex partners, civil unions would go a long way in making members of the LGBT community feel more comfortable on campus.
"We should be supporting anything that gives equal rights," Quick said. "CUSG officially supports civil unions and the LGBT community."
Ramos said publicizing personal stories about the LGBT community, as well as support from Republican group Coloradans for Freedom, have made significant impacts in expanding acceptance statewide.
Ramos said while the attitudes of voters are constantly progressing toward acceptance of the LGBT lifestyle, young people are going to become significant players in future human rights legislation.
"Education is leading the way in working with LGBT people and providing a safe haven for them, and we wish more would do it," Ramos said. "Even though we're seeing a huge shift in voting on human rights, it could be that young people are the ones deciding many of those battles."