Obama, McNulty ensure civil unions will be an issue in November election
When President Barack Obama declared his support for same-sex marriage, it set off a barrage of questions about his motive. Was it an unwanted distraction precipitated by Vice President Joe Biden’s announcement that he was “comfortable” with same-sex marriage? Or was it a deliberate strategy to put gay civil rights on the table as a campaign issue without it seeming calculated?
The debate continues on that question. It is unlikely that anyone will ‘fess up before the election, and only then if it strengthens the administration and the party.
After the recent “anarchy (and) chaos” — as the Denver Post characterized it — in the Colorado House of Representatives, the same question might be asked of House Speaker Frank McNulty’s response to the Colorado Civil Unions Act (Senate Bill 2).
In an insult to democracy worthy of his Republican counterparts in Washington, McNulty delayed a vote on the civil unions bill during the final regular session of the Legislature until the clock ran out. When Gov. John Hickenlooper called a special session to reconsider civil unions, as well as 30 unrelated bills killed as collateral damage by Republican stalling tactics, McNulty spiked the bill by sending it to his “kill committee,” where it was defeated on a party-line vote.
Supporters of civil unions reacted with disappointment and anger. They believed they had assurances that McNulty would bring the bill to the House floor for an up-or-down vote. Since several Republicans had committed to support civil unions, the bill was expected to pass. It had already passed the Senate by a bipartisan 23-12 vote.
When the bill died, Brad Clark, executive director of One Colorado, a statewide advocacy group supporting equal rights for gay and lesbian couples, accused McNulty of pandering to the right-wing fringe of the Republican Party.
“Not once but twice, House leadership has made a mockery of the legislative process. Instead of allowing a full up-or-down vote by all our representatives, Speaker McNulty chose to play politics and hurt Colorado families,” Clark said.
Democratic state Rep. Mark Ferrandino, who sponsored the House bill when no Republican was willing to introduce it, said, “Fair-minded Coloradans have been outraged by the abuse of the legislative process we’ve seen with this bill.” Democrats, he said, “will work to assure that in the future we will have a House leadership that respects the will of the majority of our state representatives and the majority of the people of Colorado.”
According to an April 2012 Public Policy Polling poll, 62 percent of Coloradans support civil unions. By party affiliation, 82 percent of Democrats, 75 percent of independents, and 55 percent of Colorado Republicans support conjugal rights for same-sex couples — either through same-sex marriage or civil unions.
Whether by accident or design, bumbling or cunning, McNulty has made sure that civil rights for gay and lesbian Coloradans will be a key issue in the 2012 elections, both state and federal.
As Lynn Bartels and Tim Hoover wrote in The Denver Post, “In a state that’s already ground zero for the presidential election, the fight over civil unions is expected to become another rallying cry.”
Meantime, McNulty is accusing the governor of dividing the Legislature by supporting “gay marriage” rather than focusing on such economic issues as jobs and the economy. To the apparent amusement of Hickenlooper, McNulty even accused the governor “of coordinating with President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign on the issue.”
On the other side, One Colorado announced, “We now take our fight to the election ... Come November, we will win a pro-equality majority that will vote to protect all loving couples.”
Focus on the Family and its affiliates have been unrelenting in their opposition to the passage of the Colorado Civil Unions Act. Support by the religious right will ensure that the GOP cannot run away from the issue in November.
Coloradans do have a choice in November. They can blame the Democrats, or they can blame the Republicans. But the outcome is the same in either case: Civil unions will be a dominant state and federal issue in November.