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Today is Saturday, November 24, 2007


Three States To Explore Civil Unions

[BOSTON, MA] - Legislatures in three states, two of them in New England, will be presented this year with bills that would recognize gay and lesbian relationships.

In Massachusetts, just days after the death of a proposed anti-gay marriage constitutional amendment, a bill to create gay civil unions has been presented.

The bill is similar to the law passed in Vermont in 2000, that grants gay and lesbian couples virtually all the rights and responsibilities of marriage that are granted by state law.

"It's time, maybe overtime," said Rep. Alice Wolf, D-Cambridge, who is sponsoring one of the bills. "Increasingly people are recognizing and honoring the fact that there are gay couples with families in our community. It's very important to recognize that."

Domestic partner legislation has won approval in the Mass. Senate at least three times, but has never come up for a vote in the House. Given this history, some advocates don't believe the civil union bills have a chance of passing.

A second bill, which would legalize gay marriage is also expected, but few believe it will garner enough support to come to a vote.

"You have to start somewhere," said lesbian Sen. Cheryl Jacques. "A discussion around civil unions will educate the public about the struggles gay families have when it comes to issues of health care, estate planning, adoption - all the things that affect family life."

In Connecticut, the Judiciary Committee is expected to present a partnership union bill to the House this session. The committee has already begun hearing deputations.

In Colorado, Rep. Tom Plant, D-Nederland, will propose a civil union act. Gay marriages are banned in Colorado. Plant said he wants to create a way for gay and lesbian couples to share the responsibilities and obligations of marriage.

"It's an opportunity for the Legislature to live up to the Pledge of Allegiance - 'liberty and justice for all,' not just words for reciting," Plant said.

And, in a separate measure, Rep. Alice Madden says she will introduce the bill allowing same-sex adoptions. It's probable that a bill banning such adoptions will be also introduced. The House approved the ban last year, but the Democratic-controlled Senate killed it. Now, Republicans control the Senate.

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