GOP Kills Civil Unions in Colorado Special Session
DENVER (AP) - Gay couples who watched as Colorado lawmakers rejected a civil unions measure are taking comfort in the bill sponsor’s mantra: It’s not a matter of if, but a matter of when civil unions become law.
The most emotional issue - some call it divisive - at the Legislature came to an end late Monday in front of hundreds of observers at the Capitol. It was the second time within a week the bill failed. The first was after a Republican filibuster, the second during a special session.
Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper had said the second go-around was needed to address a "fundamental question of fairness and civil rights" on whether gay couples deserve rights similar to married couples.
The bill’s demise during special session 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’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.
"The gay community is being used as a political pawn," he said.
Ferrandino rejected that argument, saying Democrats were pursuing the issue to grant gay families equal rights. He said he was optimistic that civil unions would pass eventually, and it was a matter of when, not if.
"I will tell you that ’when’ keeps getting closer and closer and this will happen soon," he said.
Ferrandino said his party would work this year make sure to "work hard to make sure the public understands what happened, the games that were played."
Republicans hold a 33-32 advantage in the House, but there was enough support for the civil unions bill to pass last week after three different committees gave their approval. The Senate had already passed the measure.