10:33pm

Mon May 14, 2012
Politics

Civil Unions Legislation Defeated In So-called “Kill Committee”

The effort to revive a stalled civil unions bill has run out of steam at the Colorado Capitol. The measure died Monday night in a Republican-controlled House committee.

Emotions ran high on the State Military Veterans Affairs committee. The committee is known among insiders as a favorite destination of bills the Republican Speaker of the House wanted killed.

Denver Democrat Crisanta Duran lamented this, noting the bill had already passed three GOP-controlled House committees during the regular session.

“Maybe I’m just young, but one day we are going to be on the right side of history.”

In a party line vote, 5-4, the bill died in committee. The end for the bill came on the first day of a special legislative session called to deal with civil unions and several other stalled bills that died at the end of the regular session.

In casting his no vote, Republican Don Coram, whose son is openly gay, said civil unions were being used as a political pawn, adding the issue would be put before voters. “If you were to bring this to a vote, I think there’s a good chance this would happen and I would have no heartache over that at all. But in representing my district I will be a no vote and I still respect you very much.”

Last night’s drama that unfolded in the so-called “kill committee” capped off a long day of political back and forth’s that mostly followed the script pundits had predicted. Earlier in the day, when bills were assigned to committee, Speaker Frank McNulty told a gaggle of reporters on the house floor that Democrats were trying to use civil unions, or gay marriage as repeatedly called it, as a distraction.

“We ought not, and we should not, be spending time on divisive social issues when unemployment remains far too high, when far too many Coloradans are out of work and when our focus should be on job creation and economic recovery.”

It’s not clear just how divisive the issue of civil unions really is though. Several recent polls show a majority of Coloradans supporting civil unions and almost half of the Republican delegates attending the party’s recent state assembly voted for a platform that included civil unions.

Those are stats not lost on openly gay House Minority Leader and bill sponsor Mark Ferrandino. “He might feel it's divisive (McNulty), but in terms of outside this building, outside this chamber, the vast majority of Coloradans support this bill.”

Democrats contend the special session could have been avoided had Republicans not staged a de facto filibuster last week that prevented a host of other bi-partisan bills from passing.

Those include funding for water projects and a bill allowing benefit corporations, both of which initially passed the Democratic-controlled State Senate yesterday.

Questions About The Special Session

With the civil unions bill unlikely to be revived, Governor Hickenlooper faced questions about the merits behind his decision to call lawmakers back to Denver.

“We needed a special session anyway. We needed to make sure we got these business bills done. But at the same time there should have been a debate and a vote on civil unions. And it’s not gay marriage, it’s civil unions.”

For the second time in nearly a week, Hickenlooper scolded Republicans for not bringing the bill to an up or down vote on the full House floor.

Let Them Vote

A couple hundred gay-rights advocates chanted ‘let them vote’ at a rally on the capitol steps earlier in the day. Many in the crowd had already conceded defeat even before lawmakers had convened their special session inside.

“We will be back every session, every year, until our families are protected, until our children have the same ability to be protected under the law. And make no mistake about it, we will win” said Brad Clark, executive director of the gay-rights group One Colorado, who organized the rally.

Gay rights activists, many Democrats, and some Republicans even have predicted the thorny fight over civil unions could hurt the GOP come November.

House Speaker Frank McNulty however, doubted that to be the case. He said most Coloradans want to know how lawmakers will help them through the still-struggling economy.

“Those are the things that we’re going to be talking about heading into November, they’re the things we’re talking about now, and those are the issues that Coloradans are concerned about.”

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