Senate Bill 13-011 authorizing Civil Unions passed the Colorado House on March 12, 2013. Governor Hickenlooper is expected to sign the bill into law soon. SB 13-011 (full text here) is scheduled to take effect May 1, 2013 (except those provisions related to adding a partner to insurance which shall take effective January 1, 2014). The bill authorizes any Colorado resident over the age of eighteen, regardless of gender, to enter into a civil union provided they are not already in a civil union or married. The bill provides that partners in a civil union have all the rights and responsibilities of spouses except the right to file joint Colorado tax returns (because Colorado’s income tax is based on a filer’s Federal tax return and under Federal law, unmarried couples may not file joint tax returns).
The bill will, among other things:
- 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 civil union;
- Rights and abilities concerning transfer of real or personal property 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 spousal status;
- The probate laws relating to estates, wills, trusts, and intestate 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 a family 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 group benefit plans for state employees;
- The ability to designate a party to a civil union as a beneficiary under the state public employees retirement system;
- Survivor benefits under local government firefighter and police pensions;
- Protections and coverage under domestic abuse and domestic violence laws;
- Rights and protections under victims’ compensation laws and victims and witness protection laws;
- Laws, policies, or procedures relating to emergency and nonemergency medical care and treatment and hospital visitation;
- Rights to visit a party in a civil union in a correctional facility, jail, or private contract prison or in a facility providing mental health treatment;
- The ability to file a complaint about the care or treatment of 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 a party 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 a party in a civil union and evidentiary privileges for parties to a civil union;
- The right to apply for emergency or involuntary commitment 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 for plans issued, delivered, or renewed on or after January 1, 2014; and
- Other insurance policies that provide coverage relating to joint 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 aeparation, 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 (e.g. pre-nuptial and post-nuptial 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 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.