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Gazette Premium Content Gay lawmakers await session's end to celebrate own civil unions

By Megan Schrader Updated: May 1, 2013 at 9:35 am

Three openly gay lawmakers who helped make the flurry of civil unions that will occur across the state Wednesday a reality are all waiting for the legislative session to end to hold a proper ceremony with their longtime partners.

'We didn't want to do it this evening because I think I would be leaving my partner at the steps of the altar, ' joked Sen. Jessie Ulibarri, D-Commerce City, who expected to be working in the Senate until well after midnight Tuesday.

The Denver Clerk and Recorder's Office was scheduled to be open from midnight to 3 a.m. Wednesday to license the state's first couples under a new civil union law that allows same-sex couples to share many of the same legal rights as married couples.

Ulibarri and his partner of five years, Louis Trujillo, will wait until after the hectic legislative session concludes to celebrate their civil union with friends and family.

The couple, who have two children ages 14 and 2, testified the past two years in favor of civil unions as a way to give rights and recognition to the union of same-sex couples. This year, Ulibarri was a newly elected senator and able to cast his vote in support of Senate Bill 11.

'It means our family will be able to have some basic protections under the law, ' Ulibarri said. 'There's a very real validation in getting a civil union that our family is a family, a validation from the state. '

Sen. Lucia Guzman, D-Denver, has never had a ceremony with her partner of 19 years, although the couple established a legal trust years ago to protect their assets in case of a tragedy or emergency.

'Our plan is to have a union but it may not be for several months, ' said Guzman, who was a co-sponsor of the legislation in the Senate.

'It's symbolic and in a sense will give us a chance for a public unity, a public statement that we are committed to each other, ' Guzman said. 'It gives us the opportunity just like any other couple. '

House Speaker Mark Ferrandino, D-Denver, has sponsored the bill in the House for the past three years, including the version of the bill that died in special session last year after Republicans refused to hear it.

Although he and his partner have already had a ceremony, Ferrandino said they will hold a civil union ceremony, likely later in May, and celebrate with friends and family.

They have a 1-year-old foster daughter they are hoping to adopt.

The legal protections in civil unions will give Ferrandino and his family greater protections and simplify the process, he said.

There are eight openly gay lawmakers at the Capitol this session - a record number - including Sen. Pat Steadman, D-Denver, whose partner of 11 years died last year of pancreatic cancer.

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Contact Megan Schrader

719-286-0644

Twitter: @CapitolSchrader

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