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Mar 22, 2013 12:10 AM by Tony Spehar - tspehar@koaa.com

Governor Hickenlooper signs Civil Unions Act into law

Gay couples across Colorado will soon be able to join in civil unions after Democratic Governor John Hickenlooper signed the Civil Unions Act into law in Denver on Thursday afternoon.

Dozens of gay couples and hundreds of supporters packed into the Colorado History Center near the Capitol to watch the bill be signed.

"A lot of excitement, a lot of elation, a lot of relief that this is actually happening," described Amber Sullivan, who watched with her partner Sarah Higgenbotham. "It's such a surreal moment, it's just so exciting."

Democrats had tried to pass a civil unions law for years and with their taking control of the house and senate it was seen as inevitable that they would be successful this year. Still, there was intense debate in the state house with Republican lawmakers saying the bill went against the will of the voters who passed an amendment banning gay marriage in 2006. Republicans also argued the bill did not go far enough in allowing government officials and private businesses the ability to opt-out of providing services to gay couples based on religious beliefs. But, the Civil Unions Act was passed last week and a number of republicans voted in support of the bill.

"This year is the win and to actually make it law is right now," Democratic House Speaker Mark Ferrandino, the first gay lawmaker to hold the speaker position, told the crowd on Thursday.

With the bill being signed into law, many of the couples who attended the signing said they knew what their future plans are.

"Celebrate and be there at 12:01 on May 1 to get our union license, very excited," explained Amber Sullivan.

Beginning on May 1 couples will be allowed to join in civil unions statewide.

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