Gay couples won legal protection for civil unions in Colorado on Thursday as Democratic Governor John Hickenlooper signed the bill into law, said The Associated Press.
Colorado passed a law banning gay marriage seven years ago, but now the state will join eight others that have approved civil unions for gay couples in what The Los Angeles Times called a "sharp turnaround."
The new law goes into effect on May 1, said AP.
"It means I can change my name finally," 21-year-old Amber Fuentes told AP. "It's not marriage, but it still gives us a lot of the rights."
The new law comes ahead of a key debate in the US Supreme Court on the legality of gay marriage bans enacted by some states.
The bill was fiercely debated in state legislature, but its passage virtually assured that it would become law as Hickenlooper had openly expressed his support for the measure, said the LA Times.