DENVER (AP) – Colorado’s civil unions measure appeared headed for certain defeat Monday, as Republicans and Democrats spent the first day of a special legislative session pointing fingers over the proposal to give gay couples rights similar to married couples.
Republican House Speaker Frank McNulty blasted the civil unions bill as a waste of time and money for a special session, and assigned the proposal to a committee likely to reject it.
“We ought not and we should not be spending time on divisive issues when unemployment remains far too high,” he said.
Democrats, meanwhile, blamed McNulty for keeping the measure from seeing a debate in the full House, where it would pass, and forcing a special session because several bills died when Republicans filibustered last week on civil unions.
Rep. Mark Ferrandino, the Democrats’ House leader and sponsor of the civil unions bill, said “Democracy was thwarted” last week.
“And while (McNulty) blames the governor for calling this special session, he needs to look in the mirror and see who really caused this special session,” Ferrandino said.
Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, said a special session was needed to reconsider civil unions, which he called a “fundamental question of fairness and civil rights.”
Civil unions would let same-sex partners make medical decisions for each other and would enhance their parental and inheritance rights.
The Democratic Senate has approved civil unions more than once, but Democrats see no point in trying again in that chamber. That means the civil unions measure is unlikely to end up on Hickenlooper’s desk this year.
Red-shirted gay-rights activists who thronged the state Capitol vowed to stay through the anticipated vote later Monday. They expected defeat, but as in years past, vowed to keep trying.
“It’s going to happen eventually. I mean, there’s no way in 10 years we don’t have nationwide marriage equality,” said activist Wiley Sherer, who was selling buttons that read, “Ignorance is forgivable. Pride in ignorance never is.”
More than a dozen states allow either gay marriage or civil unions, including several that passed such laws this year.
The debate in Colorado is playing out at a time when President Barack Obama became the first U.S. president to publicly endorse gay marriage. But North Carolina voters approved a constitutional amendment that bars civil unions and defines marriage as solely between a man and a woman.
Even after the civil unions measure is defeated, lawmakers have other tasks to complete before the special session ends, likely Wednesday.
Other bills on the agenda include setting a blood-level standard for what’s considered too impaired to drive under the influence of marijuana.
Another bill involves $70 million worth of water projects, some of which are aimed at easing drought concerns.
Legislators also will take up an unemployment insurance plan and a referred measure asking voters to repeal three laws deemed unconstitutional, including a 1992 voter-approved measure forbidding cities from passing anti-discrimination laws to protect gay people.
By IVAN MORENO, Associated Press
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