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SB13-011: Colorado Civil Union Act

LGBT Equality | Marriage Equality | Racial Justice
Bill Number: SB13-011
Year: 2013
ACLU Position: Support
Sponsors: Schafer, Ferrandino/Guzman, Steadman

Description:

The bill creates the "Colorado Civil Union Act" (Act) to authorize any 2 unmarried adults, regardless of gender, to enter into a civil union.

Parties wanting to enter into a civil union apply to a county clerk and recorder for a civil union license. Certain persons may certify a civil union. After the civil union is certified, the officiant files the civil union certificate with the county clerk and recorder. A priest, minister, rabbi, or other official of a religious institution or denomination or an Indian nation or tribe is not required to certify a civil union in violation of his or her right to free exercise of religion. The criteria for a valid civil union are set forth in the bill.

The executive director of the department of public health and environment and the state registrar of vital statistics shall issue forms necessary to implement the Act. Each county clerk and recorder submits records of registered civil unions to the office of vital statistics. A county clerk and recorder collects a fee for a civil union license, which fee is credited to the vital statistics records cash fund. The state registrar of vital statistics is authorized to set and collect an additional fee for verification of civil unions, which fee is credited to the vital statistics records cash fund. A county clerk and recorder collects a $20 fee to be credited to the Colorado domestic abuse program fund.

The rights, benefits, protections, duties, obligations, responsibilities, and other incidents under law that are granted or imposed under the law to spouses apply in like manner to parties to a civil union, including the following:

  • Responsibility for financial support of a party to a civilunion;
  • Rights and abilities concerning transfer of real or personalproperty to a party to a civil union;
  • The ability to file a claim based on wrongful death,emotional distress, loss of consortium, dramshop, or other laws, whether common law or statutory, related to or dependent upon spousal status;
  • Prohibitions against discrimination based upon spousalstatus;
  • The probate laws relating to estates, wills, trusts, andintestate succession, including the ability to inherit real and personal property from a party in a civil union under the probate code;
  • The probate laws relating to guardianship and conservators,including priority for appointment as a conservator, guardian, or personal representative;
  • Survivor benefits under and inclusion in workers'compensation laws;
  • The right of a partner in a civil union to be treated as afamily member or as a spouse under the "Colorado Employment Security Act" for purposes of unemployment benefits;
  • The ability to adopt a child of a party to a civil union;
  • The ability to insure a party to a civil union under groupbenefit plans for state employees;
  • The ability to designate a party to a civil union as abeneficiary under the state public employees retirement SB13-01 system;
  • Survivor benefits under local government firefighter andpolice pensions;
  • Protections and coverage under domestic abuse anddomestic violence laws;
  • Rights and protections under victims' compensation lawsand victims and witness protection laws;
  • Laws, policies, or procedures relating to emergency andnonemergency medical care and treatment and hospital visitation;
  • Rights to visit a party in a civil union in a correctionalfacility, jail, or private contract prison or in a facility providing mental health treatment;
  • The ability to file a complaint about the care or treatmentof a party in a civil union in a nursing home;
  • Rights relating to declarations concerning administering,withholding, or withdrawing medical treatment, proxy decision-makers and surrogate decision-makers, CPR directives, or directives concerning medical orders for scope of treatment forms with respect to a party to a civil union;
  • Rights concerning the disposition of the last remains of aparty to a civil union;
  • The right to make decisions regarding anatomical gifts;
  • Eligibility for family leave benefits;
  • Eligibility for public assistance benefits;
  • A privilege from providing compelled testimony against aparty in a civil union and evidentiary privileges for parties to a civil union;
  • The right to apply for emergency or involuntarycommitment of a party to a civil union;
  • The right to claim a homestead exemption;
  • The ability to protect exempt property from attachment,execution, or garnishment;
  • Dependent coverage under life insurance for plans issued,delivered, or renewed on or after January 1, 2014;
  • Dependent coverage under health insurance policies forplans issued, delivered, or renewed on or after January 1, 2014; and
  • Other insurance policies that provide coverage relating tojoint ownership of property for plans issued, delivered, or renewed on or after January 1, 2014.

The same processes that are provided in law for dissolution, legal separation, and declaration of invalidity of a marriage apply to dissolution, legal separation, and declaration of invalidity of a civil union.

Any person who enters into a civil union in Colorado consents to the jurisdiction of the courts of Colorado for the purpose of any action relating to a civil union even if one or both parties cease to reside in the state. The courts are directed to follow the laws of Colorado in a matter filed in Colorado that is seeking a dissolution, legal separation, or invalidity of a civil union that was entered into in another state. The courts are authorized to collect docket fees for the dissolution of a civil union, legal separation of a civil union, and declaration of invalidity of a civil union.

Parties to a civil union may create agreements modifying the terms and conditions of a civil union in the manner specified in the law for creating marital agreements. The Act states that this Act does not invalidate or affect an otherwise valid domestic partnership agreement or civil contract between 2 individuals who are not married to each other if the agreement or contract was made prior to the effective date of this Act or, if made after the effective date of this Act, the agreement or contract is not made in contemplation of entering into a civil union.

The Act shall not be construed to create a marriage between the parties to a civil union or alter the public policy of this state that recognizes only the union of one man and one woman as a marriage. The Act includes a reciprocity and principle of comity section that states that a relationship between 2 persons that does not comply with section 31 of article II of the state constitution and that is legally entered into in another jurisdiction is deemed in Colorado to be a civil union and that, under principles of comity, a civil union or domestic partnership or a substantially similar legal relationship between 2 persons that is legally created in another jurisdiction is deemed to be a civil union for purposes of Colorado law.

The Act includes a severability clause.

Until a statutory change is enacted to authorize the filing of a joint state tax return by parties to a civil union, the Act shall not be construed to permit the filing of a joint income tax return by the parties to a civil union.

A custodian of records is prohibited from allowing a person, other than the person in interest or an immediate family member of the person in interest, to inspect the application for a civil union license of any person; except that a district court may order the custodian to permit inspection of the license application for a civil union upon a showing of good cause. A record of an application for a civil union license is available for public inspection 50 years after the date that the record was created.

A person who has entered into a designated beneficiary agreement under Colorado's designated beneficiary statute is precluded from entering into a civil union with a different person. If both parties to a designated beneficiary agreement are eligible to enter into a valid civil union and subsequently enter into a civil union, the civil union certificate constitutes a superseding legal document that supersedes and invalidates the prior designated beneficiary agreement. The bill makes other conforming amendments. The bill takes effect May 1, 2013; except that the provisions relating to the inclusion of a partner in a civil union as a dependent on a health or life insurance policy and the provisions relating to insurance policies concerning the ownership of property take effect January 1, 2014.


Current Status:

03/12/2013 - House Third Reading Passed
02/11/2013 - Introduced In House - Assigned to Judiciary
03/19/2013 - Signed by the Speaker of the House
03/21/2013 - Governor Action - Signed
02/11/2013 - Senate Third Reading Passed



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