May 072009
 
Authors: Ryan Sheine

Two CSU students, Joe Peterson and Tara Craig, have taken the initiative to write a Colorado legislative proposal that will allow for same-sex civil unions to receive the same benefits as married couples.

The proposal will override current Colorado law that some feel “unconstitutionally” bars same-sex unions and is scheduled to go to the Review and Comments Board — a committee unaffiliated with either the House of Representatives or Senate — for review on May 11.

“(Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender peoples) should have the same rights as other citizens,” said Craig, a sophomore political science major. “It’s unfair for them to be treated like second-class citizens in the eyes of the government and the constitution.”

“The goal is to give same sex couples the right to be in a civil union and receive the same benefits as straight, married couples,” she added.

The Review and Comments Board will overview the resubmitted proposal and suggest any changes. If approved, the proposal will be submitted to Secretary of State Bernie Beuscher.

If Beuscher approves the measure on June 3, the Title Board within Beuscher’s office will then review the proposal. It will verify that the legislation is single-subject and appropriately confined to its core idea, then providing final approval.

Should the secretary of state approve the petition, Craig, Peterson and fellow supporters are allowed to go gather the signatures required for the proposal to appear on the ballot in 2010.

A total of 76,047 signatures from registered Colorado voters are needed to get the measure on the ballot.

Peterson expects to collect at least double that number just to be safe.

“The most important thing is getting signatures,” said Peterson, an openly gay member of the GLBT community and a sophomore political science and communications double major.

An opponent of the proposal, Kelly Carnal, president of the CSU College Republicans and a sophomore health and exercise science major, said she was “glad (the proposal is) not being pushed through on a federal level” but rather in individual states. “I wouldn’t say I’m supportive of the new bill, but there are much more important things going on, like the economy,” she said. “There are so many things that we should be concentrating on even though I know people feel like this is a big deal.”

Both Craig and Peterson said Proposition 8 — adopted as law in California on November 5 stating “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California” — inhibits the fight for equal rights.

“With Prop-8, I never thought people would vote to take away rights,” said Peterson, who met fellow proposal writer Craig at a Young Democrats meeting. “We decided to not be all talk but to take action.”

“It’s a daunting task, and we have a tough, emotional fight in front of us,” Peterson said. “What has been tried before isn’t working, and now the time is right.”

Some CSU students agreed with Peterson and Craig’s efforts.

Siobhan Waitzman, a freshman biology major, said, “Yes, there’s no reason why they shouldn’t have the same rights as married couples.”

“I would like to see same-sex couples have the same rights as heterosexual couples. Same-sex couples in civil unions should be treated fairly and equally on their taxes, marriage, and adoption.”

There is an “undercurrent of energy” fueling the fight for same-sex civil union rights, Peterson said, citing Vermont and Iowa’s recent legalization of same-sex marriage as “two very big milestones.”

He said although supporters of the movement have faced much opposition, shifts in culture are making efforts easier.

“The demographics have changed, and a huge part of that is the upcoming youth. People seem to be much more open minded.”

Staff writer Ryan Sheine can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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