For thousands of couples across Colorado, the ability to legally care for, protect, and support the one who makes their knees go weak isn’t yet a reality. Same-sex couples in our state still do not have the legal rights needed to protect the ones they love.
Last year, the Civil Unions bill failed along a party-line vote. It passed the Democratic-lead Senate, and was expected to pass the House of Representatives, where Republicans held a one-vote majority, if it lived long enough to hit the House floor. It didn’t. It was sent to the Republican-dominated Judiciary Committee, where, after eight hours of intense, heart-wrenching testimony in support of the bill, it was voted down.
Supportive Legislatures and One Colorado, the state wide organization leading the campaign, promised that the bill would be back. And it is. The legislation was introduced last month on the opening day of the 2012 session. Governor Hickenlooper even spoke of his support during his State of the State speech this year: “As we strive to make Colorado healthier, we believe in equal rights for all, regardless of race, creed, gender or sexual orientation. We don’t believe we should legislate what happens inside a church or place of worship, but government should treat all people equally. It’s time to pass civil unions.”
What’s different this year isn’t the Democratic majority of the senate, or the Republican majority of the House, but that now those Republicans may be facing some pressure from their own party. Coloradoans for Freedom is a new GOP group, formed to serve as a resource for the passage of civil unions. Former and current lawmakers, business leaders and lobbyists from the Republican Party believe that forming a civil union is a matter of personal freedom consistent with the Republican philosophy of individual liberty.
However, the futures of many gay and lesbian couples in Colorado lie in the hands of one man, Speaker of the House, Frank McNulty, a Republican. As the leader of the House, he will have the power to send the bill to a specific committee again, a choice that will effectively pass or deny civil unions.