Civil union bill failure could benefit Dems

Democrats are going straight for the gay vote.

The dramatic death of a civil unions bill at the hands of Republican leaders at the end of this year’s session will lead throngs of gays and lesbians to donate time and money to their campaigns, leading to more votes in the fall, Democrats say.

At stake is the one-vote majority the GOP currently holds in the Colorado House and the five-vote majority the Democrats have in the Senate.

Despite the issue of gay marriage receiving national attention, Colorado Republicans say the death of civil unions for same-sex couples in the state will be long forgotten by November.

As a result, they not only expect to increase their majority in the House, but win the Senate, too.

“I think people are going to be done with this issue in a couple of weeks,” said Rep. Mark Waller, R-Colorado Springs. “The Republicans have every intention of not only keeping the House, but growing our majority in the House and also possibly taking the Senate.”

House Minority Leader Mark Ferrandino, D-Denver, said Waller is fooling himself if he believes the gay and lesbian community is going to forget how the civil union bill died twice in the Legislature this year.

Ferrandino, one of four openly gay legislators who sponsored the civil unions bill, said Waller and other Republicans who oppose civil unions are on the wrong side of the civil rights issue of the era, and are in for a surprise come Election Day.

“What I think really is going to have an impact on people’s attitude is not necessarily on policy, but the process and how elected representatives didn’t have their voices heard,” he said.

Ferrandino was referring to the GOP leaders in the House who used parliamentary maneuvers normally used by the minority party to kill the civil unions bill even though a majority of legislators supported it.

At least six Republicans said they planned to join the 32 Democrats in the 65-member House to vote for civil unions. Three of them did vote for the measure in three different committees.

But because House Speaker Frank McNulty, R-Highlands Ranch, personally opposed the idea, calling it gay marriage instead of civil unions, the bill died in a dramatic fashion at the end of the regular session earlier this month.

McNulty led an effort to kill it again less than a week later during the three-day special session.

“The speaker decided that his voice was more important than 64 other members,” Ferrandino said. “When I talk to people around the state, it really has been that issue that’s galvanized people’s motivations to get engaged because they feel like the democratic process wasn’t fulfilled and they’re angry about that.”

Rep. Don Coram, R-Montrose, was one of the lawmakers who voted against the bill when it came before the House State, Veterans & Military Affairs Committee, a panel Ferrandino called “McNulty’s kill committee.”

Coram said he opposed the idea because voters rejected creating domestic partnerships for same-sex couples in 2006. He also did so despite pleas from his gay son, Dee Coram, who lives in Montrose.

“This is a situation that is very close to my heart, and it’s very difficult because I also represent 75,000 people in southwest Colorado,” the representative said. “But what you’re asking me to do is invalidate the vote of six years ago. I’m concerned that the gay community is being used as a political pawn. You deserve the respect, but I also feel that the voters that I represent, their vote needs to be respected.”

Coram, who said the issue would be best settled by taking it to the ballot, said the issue strained but didn’t damage his relationship with his son.

“We’re still friends even though we disagree,” he said.



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