A state Senate committee in Colorado is facing opposition to a new plan to extend health insurance benefits to the gay and lesbian partners of state employees.

Focus on the Family, a fundamentalist Christian group, is based in the state.

The Colorado Family Institute, a Focus on the Family “policy council,” said it opposes this legislation.

“It would force taxpayers to endorse domestic partnerships by financially [subsidising] behaviours they believe are immoral,” it said in an email to supporters.

“It was just two years ago that Colorado citizens rejected a domestic partnership ballot measure and changed the state Constitution to state that marriage is only defined as one man and one woman.

“Senate Bill 88 is an attempt to run around the voter’s wishes and elevate same-sex couples to the status of married couples.

Bill 88 concerns the extension of state employee group benefits to domestic partners of state employees.

It was approved by the Senate Business, Labour and Technology Committee yesterday and will now go to the Appropriations Committee.

It defines the term “domestic partner” for the purpose of qualifying as the dependent of a state employee.

The cost of the new bill to the state is estimated to be just $116,000 (£79,000) a year.

The Colorado Catholic Conference also opposes the bill.

“The covenant of marriage is the foundation of the continuation and well-being of society,” it stated on its website.

“The Colorado Catholic Conference opposes this legislation because it would have the effect of seeming to equate marital and non-marital unions and would contribute to the already serious loss of respect for and commitment to marriage and family life.”

State Senator Jennifer Veiga introduced the bill.

“At a time when 800,000 Coloradans are uninsured, we should be doing more to extend health insurance coverage,” she said in a letter to the Denver Post.

“Extending insurance coverage is a way to show the state of Colorado cares about the health and well-being of all our employees and their families.

“It would reduce the number of uninsured and it would bring Colorado in line with 17 other states, 17 Colorado cities, and five counties.

“Opponents to the bill say we cannot afford this measure or that we cannot afford it now. In its editorial, The Post wrote, “Right idea, wrong time.”

“Does fairness have an expiration date? Or a more appropriate start date for state law than as soon as humanly possible?

“In the case of this bill, the cost is minimal.

“Academic studies have shown that when employers offer domestic-partner benefits, less than one-half of 1 percent of the workforce usually enrolls. In the case of Colorado state employees, legislative council estimates that 79 people will enroll.

“Extending health insurance to all our employees’ families is the right thing to do, right now.”