If you were part of last night's partying related to the first legal civil union ceremonies for LGBT couples in the state of Colorado, chances are you're not even awake yet (unless you haven't gone to bed). But here's a roundup of initial coverage on the first day of the Colorado Civil Union Act in effect.
On Monday morning, the Colorado House of Representatives did something it has never done before, debating the civil unions bill that’s been introduced for three straight years.
The debate could have happened at the end of last year’s session, after civil unions survived three successive hearings before GOP-controlled committees, but then Speaker Frank McNulty shut down the House floor on the session’s penultimate day, effectively running out the clock on the bill and 30 others.
“This marks the first day in my time here that the full House will debate civil unions,” said the sponsor, Rep. Mark Ferrandino, D-Denver, who became the current House Speaker after Democrats swept competitive statehouse races last fall just months after the legislative meltdown over civil unions.
“This bill is about love, family and equality under the law.”
Final passage in the state House of Representatives of the Colorado Civil Union Act today marks the completion of a legislative campaign to enact basic rights for the state's gay and lesbian couples that began in 2006, when the Democratic-controlled legislature sent Referendum I to the ballot bypassing GOP Gov. Bill Owens. That referendum narrowly failed, and a constitutional gay marriage ban, Amendment 43, passed that year: even as Democrats celebrated the second in what would become an unparalleled string of electoral victories in 2006, this election was a also a nadir for LGBT equality advocates in Colorado.
There's lots of news to be had today on gay rights.
First, the Colorado State House Judiciary Committee today heard arguments on the Civil Unions bill. The bill is expected to pass easily through committee votes and then on the floor with some Republican support.
But the big news for Coloradans looking forward to more gay rights in the state may have come from the U.S. Department of Justice's amicus brief today in the Supreme Court review of California's Proposition 8. In it the Obama Administration argues that denying the name "marriage" to gay couples while providing domestic partner benefits equivalent to marriage fails any test of scrutiny the Court might choose – essentially, that marriage status should be conferred in states who offer civil union status to LGBT couples. Now, Amendment 43 bars this recognition, but presumably that would be overturned if the Supreme Court agrees to the Administration's argument.
SUNDAY UPDATE:Lynn Bartels of the Denver paper gives former Sen. Ed Jones’ offensive remarks some belated attention, and background, in a blog post late yesterday evening. —–
FOX 31's Eli Stokolsreports on yesterday's rally to "Protect Marriage" at the state capitol:
At the event, organized by the Colorado Catholic Conference, opponents of Senate Bill 11 bemoaned the fact that it no longer contains an exemption for adoption agencies that preferred not to work with gay couples for religious reasons.
Last year’s bill, which included that exemption, would already be law if not for former House Speaker Frank McNulty, R-Highlands Ranch, who decided to shut down the legislature on the session’s penultimate day as a last resort to avoid a vote and effectively kill that bill, which would have passed the full House with some GOP support.
“It doesn’t take courage to do the right thing,” McNulty said to cheers at Friday’s rally. “Marriage should be reinforced, not redefined.”
…Former state lawmaker Ed Jones took aim at the bill’s sponsor who is also McNulty’s predecessor as Speaker, Rep. Mark Ferrandino, for having a “wife” he called “Eric”, even though the lawmaker has a husband whose name is actually Greg. [Pols emphasis]
“Gays don’t have to be that way,” Jones said, ignoring overwhelming science that states otherwise.
We've heard from multiple sources in attendance that former Sen. Ed Jones' remarks at yesterday's rally were far and away the most offensive–openly invoking his race to disparage not just civil unions, but gays and lesbians in general as unworthy of rights. That said, we're unaware of any attempt made by organizer Dan Caplis, or anyone else including the numerous elected officials in attendance to repudiate Jones' remarks, or this over-the-top insult against Speaker Mark Ferrandino in particular. To brand this event as an embrace of exactly the sort of bigotry that so many moderate Republicans have warned the party to reject is a considerable understatement.
We don't understand why nothing about any of this unvarnished hate speech appears in today's Denver Poststory about the same rally–which says only that Jones called on Gov. John Hickenlooper to "act on his moderate credentials" and veto the bill. As Stokols' more thorough reporting shows, there was nothing "moderate" about this.
What happened yesterday should be called out, not sanitized.
Denver Nuggets star player, Kenneth Faried, has made a video with his two moms voicing their support for civil unions in Colorado.
“Nobody can ever tell me I can’t have two mothers because I really do,” said Faried.
Faried’s two mothers, Carol and Waudda, have been together for eleven years. Waudda has lupus, and the protections of a civil union have helped Carol care for her partner through the ups and downs of life.
“Gay and lesbian couples share similar worries as everyone else, like taking care of a loved one in sickness and in health,” said Brad Clark, Executive Director of One Colorado, the lead organization advocating for passage of civil unions in Colorado. “The story of Kenneth’s mothers remind us why civil unions are an important part of building the security we all long for.”
As announced in an email from LGBT advocacy organization One Colorado today:
The Colorado Civil Union Act has been scheduled for its first hearing — Wednesday, January 23, at 1:30 p.m. in the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Civil unions is a critical piece of legislation for our community. If passed, it will provide committed same-sex couples in the state with the protections they need to take care of their families.
We have a lot of support for the bill in the Senate Judiciary Committee — thanks to your incredible work during the election. But you can be sure that opponents of equality will flood the Capitol before Wednesday’s vote…
Passage of civil unions was assured, of course, after the extraordinary actions of the GOP House majority last year to kill the bill became a central 2012 campaign issue, and Democrats retook control of the House in the November general elections by a strong majority.
Fait accompli or no, it’s a popular question today at the Capitol whether “Anus Granny” will make another appearance Wednesday.
(The first of many breaths of fresh air expected this session. – promoted by ProgressiveCowgirl)
Moments ago, State Senators Pat Steadman and Lucia Guzman introduced the Colorado Civil Union Act. If passed, the legislation will provide same-sex couples with critical protections to take care of each other.
Last year during our civil unions campaign, we saw that our opponents will go to any length to deny protections for our families. They’ll offer up lies and use scare tactics to try to derail civil unions. They were even willing to shut down state government!
We have so much support at the Capitol, but our opponents will stop at nothing to kill civil unions.
Over the past several years, our community has stood together to accomplish amazing victories. In 2011, we passed a bullying prevention bill that protects LGBT students. In 2012, we generated 25,000 contacts into the Capitol in support of civil unions-and we won bipartisan support in both the House and the Senate.
And just a few months ago, we celebrated the election of a pro-equality majority in the House and Senate.
(Just in time for the HD-19 primary – promoted by Colorado Pols)
Journalists, like Denver Post Editorial Page Editor Curtis Hubbard, speculated that House Majority Leader Amy Stephens’ primary fight against Rep. Marsha Looper might play a role in the fate of the civil unions bill.
Stephens would want to show voters in her El Paso County district that she’s the uncompromising conservative that she claims to be, versus Looper, who reportedly supports civil unions.
If this turned out to be true, you’d expect House Speaker Frank McNulty and Stephens to start bragging, especially in the Colorado Springs area, about how Stephens stepped up to the plate and batted away the civil-union proponents.
And that’s exactly what McNulty did on the Jeff Crank Show on KVOR Saturday. KVOR broadcasts from, you guessed it, Colorado Springs.
Reporters should take note of this exchange, as they explain what in the world happened to the civil unions bill today:
Crank said that he was hearing rumors that Stephens was for civil unions. But Crank complimented Stephens and McNulty for putting their political lives on the line to stop civil unions.
McNulty responded to Crank with this:
McNulty: “Well, thank you. And it’s absolutely true that Amy Stephens was the rock that we came back to throughout the debate. It wasn’t easy, and there were times when the pressure was great, when you have advocates for [civil unions] piling into the gallery, and you’re looking up there wondering what’s going to happen next. And Amy is so strong in her faith, and is absolutely rock solid, and she just has a measure of calm about her in crisis and that’s one of the things that we relied on. And our goal is to head into this Special Session.”
UPDATE 8:10PM:The special session civil unions legislation, HB12S-1006, dies in the House State Affairs Committee on a party-line 5-4 vote.
UPDATE #5: LGBT philanthropist and major Democratic funder Tim Gill is personally attending today’s hearing on civil unions legislation, reports Nic Garcia of Out Front Colorado.
UPDATE #4: With all eyes fixed on the Colorado House today, the Los Angeles Timesreports:
Colorado legislation permitting civil unions for same-sex couples was assigned Monday to a conservative “kill” committee, supporters of the measure said, virtually ensuring that the bill will never reach the House floor for a vote.
The action by Republican House Speaker Frank McNulty occurred on the first day of a special legislative session called by Colorado’s governor to address the bill.
“The Republicans chose to send it to a committee where it won’t get a fair hearing and will likely be killed,” Brad Clark, executive director of Denver-based One Colorado, a statewide gay and lesbian advocacy group, told The Times…
“Why does it go to one committee one week and another the next?” Clark asked Monday. “If the bill does fail, all of our focus will be on November and holding the House leadership responsible. These kinds of political shenanigans have consequences.”
While Republicans focused our efforts on putting Coloradans back to work, Gov. Hickenlooper and his Democratic allies in the legislature brought these efforts to a grinding halt by pushing a last-minute, divisive attack on our traditional views on marriage for short term political gain.
Make no mistake about it. Gov. Hickenlooper has called this Legislature into an expensive special session for the sole purpose of dividing Coloradans. Instead of using his authority and his bully pulpit to unify Coloradans behind a pro-growth agenda of economic recovery and job creation, he is using his authority to tear Colorado apart. Again. That’s where his priority is…
They can’t defend their record of failed policies, so they have chosen instead to push and promote same sex marriage. And that’s unfortunate. Because the hardworking families of this state don’t have the time, the inclination or the patience to pay for these election year political stunts.
UPDATE #2: Republican Rep. Dave Balmer, while reiterating that he would be a “no” vote on civil unions, nevertheless condemns Speaker Frank McNulty’s actions to kill civil unions legislation in the House in an email to supporters today:
I do not support abrogating the House Rules to pass or defeat any bill. The House Rules have their underpinnings in our State Constitution. I have served under three Speakers, and I’ve never seen the rules changed to advantage or disadvantage any specific bill. I never saw Speaker Romanoff bend the rules, so we must follow the Rules now. Bills should proceed to their normal committees of reference.
The House Rules don’t just belong to us (the 65 current Representatives). They belong to all Representatives who served before us and all those who will serve after us. More importantly, the House Rules belong to the People of Colorado.
Swamped by reporters after making the assignment, McNulty said that Gov. John Hickenlooper called the special session to advance “gay marriage” in Colorado but that Republicans were focused on job creation. He said Hickenlooper was spending tax money to run the special session on an election-year campaign issue meant to trip up Republican candidacies…
Talking to reporters after McNulty finished, [Minority Leader Mark] Ferrandino lamented the action taken by the Speaker.
“The majority, including 46 percent of Republican delegates to the party convention this year have supported this bill. This is not a controversial issue here. He sent it to the kill committee. It should have followed the same process as it followed during the regular session.”
It was announced moments ago that GOP Colorado House Speaker Frank McNulty has assigned the legislation to authorize civil unions in Colorado, now numbered as House Bill 12S-1006–a principal focus of the special session of the Colorado General Assemblygetting underway this morning–to the House State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee.
For those of you who don’t know, the State Affairs Committee is the traditional “kill committee” in both chambers of the Assembly, composed of the most loyal representatives to the Speaker or Senate President–meaning it’s where a bill is sent when leadership wants to ensure it is killed.
After telling KOA’s Mike Rosen that he should have been farming today, rather than “sitting at [his] desk at the state Capitol,” Sen. Greg Brophy announced that the much-watched civil unions bill will soon die in the hands of his fellow Republican legislators.
Brophy said he’s heard that the bill will start in the Colorado House “and go to a committee where it will not pass.”
Rosen asked which committee, and Brophy replied, “Wild guess, State Affairs.”
“If the governor wants to make this special session about gay marriage, than that’s his prerogative,” McNulty said.
“It is ironic to me that the governor would choose to use his bully pulpit for the purpose of gay marriage but stand on the sidelines when families suffer, when Coloradans continue to look for work and unemployment remains too high,” he said.
Colorado’s House of Representatives suffered a stunning breakdown of order Tuesday night during a fight over civil unions for gay and lesbian couples…
The Republican leadership, which was using delay tactics to block the civil unions bill from getting a vote, lost control of the chamber when Democrats recruited two dissident Republicans to help them take over the House agenda.
Rather than give it up, Republicans put the chamber into recess at 9 p.m. Speaker of the House Frank McNulty, R-Highlands Ranch, returned more than two hours later to tell reporters that the House had reached an impasse.
“This is unprecedented in the history of the state of Colorado, to mess with the rules and to interrupt the integrity of the House in such a manner,” said Rep. Mark Waller, R-Colorado Springs.
The pause was in response to a power play by Democrats seeking to force a vote on the bill. With a handful of Republicans on board, the numbers were in place to compel a vote.
“We do not want to do anything to harm what this institution stands for, but at the same time, when we look at what we’re seeing from the Republican majority, we are seeing them not willing to stand up and protect the democratic process of allowing every bill to get a vote,” said Ferrandino.
House Republicans showed signs of obstruction early on Tuesday, as members of the House Appropriations Committee stalled for hours before hearing Senate Bill 2, which was amended twice before clearing the committee.
An hour later, Democrats were joined by two Republicans, Reps. B.J. Nickel and Don Beezley in blocking the House GOP from beginning debate on a slate of bills before they’d introduced the civil unions bill…
Had Democrats been recognized, their motion would have passed with both Nikkel and Beezley voting in favor of opening debate on the civil union bill.
Instead, the recess lasted the rest of the night.
Our view: this was one of the most self-destructive political mistakes we’ve ever seen committed by any politician in a leadership role. Even if the intention of by House Speaker Frank McNulty and the House GOP majority was always to kill Senate Bill 2, the way McNulty allowed the situation to escalate out of his control, and cause so much collateral damage, was an unprecedented disaster. McNulty made a mockery of a “fair hearing,” and wrecked the defense that Democrats were responsible for this last-minute crisis by holding on to the bill in the Senate. McNulty would have taken a hit from the right for losing when Democrats and dissident Republican had him procedurally outmaneuvered, and they did have him–but not nearly the criticism from all sides he’ll suffer for shutting down the House to prevent this vote.
This time we think there may really be a price, folks. Republicans are going to lose seats in the legislature over this debacle, meaning it’s a good bet we’ll be looking back at this as a major factor in the loss of the GOP’s one-seat House majority in November–perhaps as important as the GOP’s reapportionment defeat itself. And McNulty is the leadership equivalent of a dead man walking now, even in the unlikely event that the GOP keeps the House.
On the upside, Marsha Looper can’t use civil unions against Amy Stephens! But we doubt when this is over that anyone other than Stephens will think this was worth what it’s going to cost.
“Civil unions will pass,” [Coloradans for Freedom spokesman and GOP attorney Mario] Nicolais said. “And so will the Republican House majority.”
UPDATE 11:10PM: House galleries erupt in anger, are reportedly cleared as Speaker Frank McNulty pronounces the death of Senate Bill 2 along with dozens of other bills.
UPDATE 11:00PM: As of this writing, the House is in recess after an hours-long standoff between GOP House leadership and proponents of civil unions legislation. If the House does not reconvene before midnight, Senate Bill 2 along with fully 30 other pieces of legislation will die.
UPDATE 5:15PM:Senate Bill 2 passes House Appropriations Committee on a 7-6 vote with GOP Rep. Cheri Gerou joining Democrats in favor. All eyes turn to the House floor.
UPDATE 11:30AM:Senate Bill 2is set to debated in the House Appropriations Committee this afternoon. As of this writing, the bill remains on track for passage.
Briefly updating what has become the biggest political story in Colorado, which you’re all following through your choice of social or traditional media–FOX 31’s Chris Jose:
In order to survive, the bill must be heard by a house committee Tuesday … that way the bill could be voted on Wednesday … which is the last day of the legislative session.
A rally for civil unions will take place later Tuesday morning at the state Capitol.
That rally is scheduled for 10 a.m. The idea is to put pressure on state lawmakers to get this bill on the house floor.
It has already cleared some big hurdles, but it appears the Republican majority in the house … is not in any rush to get this done.
“To me the Democrats have done both the proponents of this bill and opponents of this bill a great disservice by politicizing it,” [Speaker Frank McNulty] said. “We all know that it’s a heated public policy issue to begin with and with the Senate Democrats sitting on it for 110 days, they’ve really turned it into a manufactured crisis here at the end of session.”
Rep. Mark Ferrandino, the Democrats’ leader in the House and a gay lawmaker sponsoring the bill there, disagreed with McNulty, saying the reason the bill took so long in the Senate is because supporters were trying to get Republican support. Ferrandino said he tried to persuade a Republican to carry the legislation in the House, and potential supporters said they needed more time.
“The manufactured crisis is one he’s manufacturing,” Ferrandino said of McNulty.
Yesterday, the Denver paper’s editorial board called for a special session of the legislature in the event that Senate Bill 2does not receive a final vote in the House before the legislative session must end at midnight Wednesday. Gov. John Hickenlooper’s office reportedly answered that this is “premature” to consider, and they expect SB-2 to pass. But Republicans in charge of the process, principally House Speaker Frank McNulty and House Appropriations Committee chair Rep. Jon Becker, are not inspiring confidence that will happen.
Lynn Bartelsquotes GOP analyst Katy Atkinson today conceding that this is a “win-win situation” for Democrats, who either get a major legislative victory, or a potent issue for the elections this November. The amount of GOP support that has already been demonstrated for SB-2, reflective of overwhelming public support, severely undermines the credibility of McNulty’s process-based excuses. In short, he’s upset that the bill was timed to actually pass it. To not be ingloriously killed in partisan crossfire like so many other bills this session.
That’s what smart legislators do. They align the stars. They make the intransigent pay a price.
And folks, today is the day when Frank McNulty will show how smart he is.
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UPDATE #2: House Speaker Frank McNulty floats trial blame-game balloons in an interview with LGBT publication Out Front Colorado today:
“Frankly, the supporters of Senate Bill 2 should be the ones most angry about the Senate Democrats for playing politics with their lives,” [McNulty] said during an interview with Out Front Colorado…
“I certainly understand why the attention is focus is on this bill,” McNulty said. “I appreciate why the attention is focused on this bill. But that means it’s even more important that we respect the proponents of the bill and the opponents of this bill. So offering that level of respect to both sides of this debate is one of the important things at this point.”
When asked how opponents have not been respected after the bill has had five hearings, McNulty – not answering the question directly – said: “Forcing this issue in the waining days of session is one of the ways the Democrats are playing politics with it. And that’s the unfortunate part. The Democrats are playing politics with people who they say they’re trying to respect and advance. And on that level, the Democrats should really be ashamed.”
If House Republicans allow the bill to clear the final three legislative hurdles – a vote before the House Appropriations Committee and then second- and third-reading votes before the full House – the story will be that of a shift in the GOP, of a growing number of conservatives recognizing the public’s wide acceptance of granting equal legal rights to gay and lesbian couples.
But if House Republicans run out the clock on Senate Bill 2 by delaying the final hearing and initial floor vote, which must take place by Tuesday, the story will be that of a stubborn House Majority, unwilling to bend to its more moderate members – 46 percent of those polled at the GOP’s state assembly last month indicated their support for civil unions – when met with pressure from a vocal conservative base, threatening lawmakers with primary challenges should they stray too far from traditional conservative values.
Lynn Bartels of the Denver paper reports this morning of GOP House Speaker Frank McNulty raising the possibility that Senate Bill 2, the civil unions legislation now on the brink of becoming law, will not be brought up for debate tomorrow in the full House after its expected passage in the House Appropriations Committee. GOP Rep. Cheri Gerou of Evergreen has pledged to support the bill there, and the number of House Republicans who have already voted yes on SB-2 in committee guarantees the bill’s passage–if the bill gets its initial approval tomorrow in time for final approval before midnight Wednesday.
But if the Republican House leadership does not allow that, the bill will die.
It goes without saying at this point that the political stakes are very, very high this morning, and the complexity of the different interests supporting and opposing this bill within the Colorado GOP represent a powderkeg the likes of which are rarely encountered. If Speaker McNulty expedites the bill, he may do so at the expense of his Majority Leader, Amy Stephens. But letting this legislation pass might pay political dividends in the long term for the GOP that McNulty can appreciate even as a personal opponent of civil unions.
We can’t predict the outcome of this one, so we invite you to fill out our poll.