As expected, Colorado’s Republican controlled House has in this special session killed a bill to legalize civil unions in the state.
The bill’s demise was expected by Democrats, who have begun using the issue as a rallying cry to topple Republicans in the November elections. Republicans assigned the bill to the House State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee, which voted 5-4 along party lines to kill the measure.
“My family is the same as every one of yours,” said Rep. Mark Ferrandino, the Democrats’ leader in the House and a gay lawmaker who co-sponsored the civil unions bill, moments before it was defeated.
Though the ending came as no surprise, the lead-up was emotional. Two Democratic lawmakers choked up before their votes. In the audience, Marq Shafer, 31, put his hand on his partner Cody Shafer’s shoulder and nervously rubbed Cody Shafer’s wedding ring.
Republican Rep. Don Coram, whose son is gay, cited his reasons for voting against the measure while his wife, Dianna Coram, wiped away tears in the audience. Coram said civil unions are too similar to same-sex marriage, which Colorado voters banned in 2006. He blasted Democrats, accusing them of bringing up the issue to try to gain votes.
While this is ultimately a stinging defeat for the gay community, it cannot be overlooked that Democratic Governor John Hickenlooper, in calling for a special session, made the Republican House leadership own the fact that they worked overtime to try and prevent civil unions from reaching a floor vote because, if it had, they knew there was bipartisan support enough to pass the legislation.
This follows the extraordinary last few days of the legislative session last week when Republican House Speaker Frank McNulty and other Republicans deliberately ran down the clock by discussing other bills in excruciating detail so that the civil unions bill would not make it onto the floor on the final day of the session.
When Democratic lawmakers refused to keep playing that game, McNulty simply ended that night’s scheduling, killing almost 30 bills in the process.
Following the vote to kill the civil unions bill, McNulty reportedly said, “We have more important things to worry about.”
A poll released in the last few weeks found 75% of Colorado voters support recognizing gay couples with marriage (47%) or civil unions (28%). Only 22% said there should be no legal recognition for same-sex relationships.