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Civil Unions in Colorado: Marriage Equality or Not?

A Civil Union is legally defined as "a relationship established by two eligible persons pursuant to this article that entitled them to receive the benefits and protections and be subject to the responsibilities of spouses.” Contrary to popular belief, Civil Unions are not just for same-sex couples. Adults 18 years or older (aduls with legal guardians must have legal guardians consent), regardless of gender, may enter into a Civil Union if: 1) Neither party is already in a civil union, 2) Neither party is married to another person, 3) nether party is related to one another, as incest is prohibted.

The significance of a Civil Union is the ability to enjoy most rights enojyed by married couples. Partners in a Civil Union have “all the rights, benefits, protections, duties, obligations, responsibilities, and other incidents under law as are granted to or imposed upon spouses.” The definitions of spouse and immediate family have been amedned to include civil union partners. Meaning, a Civil Union partner is now legally treated as a spouse and/or immediate family. Accordingly, Civil Union Partners are entitled to Employment and Family Leave benefits, the spousal communication privilege (protects each other from being compelled to testify against one another and/or disclose confidential communications between each other). Civil Union partners have the ability to enter into pre-nuptial and post-nuptial agreements and are equivalent to a spouse for purposes of probate and estate matters.

While the State of Colorado permits Civil Unions, the federal government still prohibits marriage between persons of the same sex. As such, a Civil Union is still limited as it pertains to federal matters, such as, filing federal income taes together, survivor benefits of federla pensions. Due to the connection between state and federal taxes, partners in a Civil Union are also precluded from filing a joint tax return on the state level.

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