As LGBT rights advocates celebrated in the US state of Colorado on Tuesday, when civil unions all but became law, a Catholic adoption charity suggested they might cease to operate if and when the civil unions bill is signed by the Governor.
On Tuesday, in its third reading, the Colorado House of Representatives approved legislation to introduce civil unions for same-sex couples. The SB-11, Colorado Civil Union Act, passed 39 votes to 26, on Monday.
The House will now send the legislation to the Governor’s desk to be signed off. Democratic Governor, John Hickenlooper, has also said that he plans to sign civil unions into law.
Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Denver expressed “disappointment” at Tuesday’s vote, saying that if civil unions become law, it “may threaten the policies which guide us in the vital work to find families for Colorado’s children in need.”
The bill does not allow exemptions for religious institutions wishing to exclude gay or lesbian couples from their services, and Mark Ferrandino, the bill’s sponsor and House Speaker said that would be “discriminatory”.
He said: “There are hundreds of LGBT couples who want to raise kids, and these kids who are in the foster system have for some reason been taken away from their biological parents for abuse or neglect.”
“What they need more than anything is a family who loves them and wants to raise them. We should not deny them the opportunity to have two loving parents, be they two women, two men, or a man and a woman.”
Samuel J Aquila, Archbishop of Denver, released a statement saying that Ferrandino’s stance on religious exemptions was wrong, saying the Catholic church “recognises and affirms the dignity of every human person”, however it does not view gay couples as equal to straight couples.
“The ability for religious-based institutions to provide foster care and adoption services for Colorado’s children is now dangerously imperiled,” Aquila said. “Marriage is a stabilizing institution at the foundation of civil society. Religious liberty is a civil rights issue. Both have been grievously harmed.”
A spokeswoman for Catholic Charities, Tracy Murphy, said the organisation would wait until the civil unions bill was signed into law before making its final decision, but the group had previously threatened to withdraw its services if religious exemptions were not included.
A version of the bill which did not pass in 2012 did include the religious exemption, reports the Coloradoan.
In order for couples to qualify for adoption through Catholic Charities, they must be legally married, and meet length of marriage requirements.
Lutheran Family Services, a religious-based agency through which 38 adoptions took place in Colorado last year, said it had no plans to withdraw its services in light of the bill’s passage.