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Bill would reconcile gay marriage and civil unions in Colorado

When a U.S. Supreme Court ruling overturned Colorado's same-sex marriage ban last October, it was cause for celebration by proponents of marriage equality. But the legalization of same-sex marriage has created some potential legal issues for couples who had previously entered into civil unions in Colorado and who are now married or plan to marry.

One of the potential issues that may arise out of this situation involves alimony, known as maintenance in Colorado. Under Colorado law, the duration of the marriage is one of the factors courts consider in setting both the amount and duration of alimony. But if a couple had a civil union for several years and then married, should the duration of the civil union be added to the duration of the marriage for purposes of setting alimony?

At least one Colorado state legislator says the answer is unclear, and he has introduced a bill that seeks to iron out this and other legal issues that may arise from the interaction of the civil unions law and the legalization of gay marriage. State Senator Pat Steadman, who sponsored the original civil unions bill back in 2013, is sponsoring the new bill. The bill was recently referred to the State Affairs Committee, however, where Steadman worries it will languish.

If Steadman's bill does not pass, the reconciliation of the civil unions law and legal gay marriage will have to be worked out in the courts, on a case-by-case basis. That will take time, and there is a real potential for inconsistent decisions along the way.

Source: Colorado Independent, "Same-sex civil unions cleanup bill headed to chopping block," Tessa Cheek, Jan. 20, 2015

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