Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Colorado House Republicans Kill Civil Unions Bill

The Colorado House Judiciary Committee voted 6-5 to kill a civil unions bill which would have allowed unmarried heterosexual and same-sex couples access to almost all state-based rights and responsibilities currently enjoyed by married couples.

The Colorado Independent has probably the best in-depth coverage on the death of the civil unions legislation:
After the vote, Committee Chair Bob Gardner, R-Colorado Springs, told the Independent the main reason he voted against the bill was that Colorado voters had already made their will known on civil unions, when in 2006 they voted for Amendment 43, which defines marriage as a union between one man and one woman, and against Referendum I, which would have established civil union domestic partnerships.
“I generally believe the people of Colorado have spoken on this issue,” Gardner said. “There was a lot of discussion among supporters about polling– that people do or do not agree with the position [against civil unions] anymore. I think it’s very possible that they have changed their minds but I think we should be very reluctant to overturn something, particularly when the vote has happened in the last five years.
“I think it’s a major public policy decision and because it was subjected to a vote of the people, both in Referendum I and Amendment 43 in different ways, to do it differently now, [to pass it] legislatively, that strikes me as aggregating to ourselves something that the people have spoken on.”
That’s essentially the argument that has been cited most persuasively in public over the last weeks by Republicans opposed to the bill, despite the overwhelming trend among opponents of the bill outside the capitol and witnesses testifying against it inside the capitol to focus on faith- and scripture-based arguments about the unnaturalness and sinfulness of homosexuality and the threat gay people pose to traditional marriage and society.
Ferrandino said he thought that the “will of the people” argument had been exposed as merely a cover at the hearing.
“You know, if that was their real message, that we should send this back to the people for a vote, then they had a chance to support an amendment that would have done that,” he said.
Right before the vote was taken to close the hearing, Rep. Su Ryden, D-Aurora, proposed to attach an amendment to the bill that would have placed it onto the ballot as a referendum.
“Not a single one of the Republicans supported that amendment,” Ferrandino said. “They’re talking out of both sides of their mouths. They’re just trying to find the most convenient answer to give so they don’t look like they bent to the far right of their party.”
Ferrandino said that, as strategy, he was willing to consider Ryden’s amendment, but that given the Republican response, it was not worth dwelling upon what might have been.
“I was willing to look at that just in order to get [the bill] out of committee,” he said, “but [Rep. Claire Levy, D-Boulder] was persuasive in opposing that idea.”
Levy argued that a referendum was not an appropriate way to approach the problem Steadman’s bill was designed to address. She said that, as legislators, they had all been elected to protect people’s rights. That’s a first priority for a lawmaker, she said. We don’t submit to a vote of the people Constitutional rights guaranteed to all Americans, including minority Americans. That’s not the way the United States is governed, she said.
The Republicans have a 1-vote advantage in the Colorado House and the openly gay sponsor Pat Steadman said he had multiple Republican vote commitments to  support the bill on the floor. There were multiple polls showing majority popular support for civil unions legislation, despite the history of the 2006 ballot measures.

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