By Ashley Wheeland, Health Policy Director for One Colorado
One of the most important priorities for any family is being able to access quality, affordable health care. We all get colds, we all have preventive care needs, and we all need health care coverage. And when we deal with our own health care crises, its our family we turn to for support. However, for far too long, a number of Colorado families have faced difficult barriers in trying to include their loved ones in important health care decisions.
But today, that is all about to change — with the Governor’s signing of Senate Bill 11, the Colorado Civil Union Act. As a result of this legislation, starting on May 1st, Colorado will recognize same-sex couples and grant their families many of the critical legal protections that other families currently enjoy. These couples will finally have the opportunity to be responsible for their own families’ health care needs.
With respect to health care, SB 11 means that parties entering into a civil union will have the ability to enroll in insurance plans as couples, as well as add their children to their plan. Additionally, they will be able to accompany their partner and children when they are getting health care services. Importantly, parties to a civil union will also qualify for family medical leave, which means that when their partner or child is sick, they can take time off work unpaid — and not have to worry about losing their job as a result.
One final and vital protection that civil unions will provide is the ability to be at a partner’s side during the most vulnerable of circumstances — including the final moments of one’s life.
To help Coloradans who are considering getting a civil union, One Colorado has created a one-stop shop online resource. Included in this comprehensive resource is a Tips for Couples guide, which outlines exactly what you need to do to take this next step — as well as who to contact should couples run into any unexpected obstacles. We also have created a “Talking Points” document to help explain to others why these critical protections matter so much.
We know there is no question that here in Colorado and in so many other states across the country, our journey to full equality is not yet complete. But as we continue to move forward on that voyage, we know that same-sex couples in Colorado have waited 10, 20, and sometimes even 40 years to have their families recognized by the state. We at One Colorado believe all families deserve these crucial safeguards in our health care system now — and not a moment later. That is what this important step forward is all about.