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Civil Unions: A Lesson in Compromise

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An image from the Capitol on Wednesday (credit: CBS)

An image from the Capitol on Wednesday (credit: CBS)

Written by Dominic Dezzutti

When Democrats won a convincing majority of the seats in the State House last fall, the very first thing everyone knew was that a Civil Unions bill would become law in 2013. It almost became law in 2012, except for a last minute dramatic move by GOP leadership that killed the bill before it could pass.

To some die hard social conservatives, the GOP leaders that stopped the Civil Unions bill from passing in 2012 and in previous legislative sessions may have seemed heroic. However, an examination of this year’s version of the Civil Unions bill, the one that will become law very soon, will show that for social conservative viewpoints, those same GOP leaders, by refusing to compromise sooner, sold them down the river.

The current form of the Civil Unions bill serves as an excellent lesson in how a compromise can do more for your cause than absolute dedication to your principles.

Here’s what I mean.

This year’s version of the Civil Unions bill not only allows for same gender couples to have the legal rights of married couples, but it doesn’t include certain provisions that may have been possible if Republicans in previous legislatures had been a bit more savvy.

With the passage of the bill in little doubt, much of the focus of testimony from opponents in the Senate Judiciary Committee this week revolved around how there were no provisions for companies in the wedding business to decline to provide their services to same gender couples based on their religious beliefs.

The 2012 version of the Civil Unions bill did not have that provision either, but it was at least considered by the bill’s author, State Sen. Pat Steadman when approached by then State Senator Shawn Mitchell. Those provisions may have been a realistic possibility in 2010 when Democrats were looking for any Republican support for the bill.

My point is that if GOP leaders could have been more savvy about the inevitability of Civil Unions, they could have worked harder to pass a version of the bill with amendments that they would have liked to have seen, rather than sticking to their guns and seeing a version of the bill that they dislike on many levels get rammed straight down their throats this year.

I have no intention to getting into exact details of the potential provisions, or even judging them as good or bad policy. However, I think all of the diehard conservatives who think that the Republicans who offer any compromise whatsoever with Democrats do not deserve to be called Republicans, can learn a lesson here.

Very simply, comprising now on an issue which you are tempted to offer no concessions, may prevent you from seeing that same issue pass with none of your ideas attached at all in the future.

With seemingly very little motivation from GOP voters and even less encouragement from GOP leadership, the very idea of compromise has become more distasteful than the idea of tax increases to Republicans.

However, if Republicans hope to have any influence on policy, especially in the Colorado legislature, compromise must cease being a dirty word. If compromise continues to be considered a mortal sin for the GOP, Republicans will continue to see policy passed without any consideration to their point of view whatsoever.

If that’s really what the GOP wants, then by all means, they should stick to their guns. But last time I checked, people usually ran for elected office in order to help craft policy, not watch it pass them by like a parade.

About The Blogger

- Dominic Dezzutti, producer of the Colorado Decides debate series, a co-production of CBS4 and Colorado Public Television, looks at the local and national political scene in his CBSDenver.com blog. Read new entries here every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Dezzutti writes about federal, state and local matters and how our elected leaders are handling the issues important to Colorado. Dezzutti also produces the Emmy winning Colorado Inside Out, hosted by Raj Chohan, on Colorado Public Television.

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