Ideology trumps reason, as conservative lawmakers swim against the current of public opinion
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — Conservative Republicans on the Colorado House Judiciary Committee Thursday effectively killed a civil unions bill that would have given same-sex couples critical legal protections, including the ability to inherit property, to take family leave to care for a partner, to visit a partner in the hospital, and to make medical and end-of-life decisions for a partner.
The party line vote came after hours of testimony, and the outcome didn’t surprise backers, who were concerned when the measure was sent to the judiciary panel, which includes three El Paso right-wing Republicans who opposed the bill on ideological grounds.
“Today’s vote was out of touch with everyday Colorado voters. With 72 percent of Coloradans in support of civil unions, House Republicans are out of the mainstream,” said Brad Clark, director of One Colorado, a statewide LGBT advocacy organization. “Once again, they have turned their backs on Colorado families and kids.”
According to polls, support for civil unions is high. A February 2011 poll by Public Policy Polling found that 72 percent of Colorado voters support legal recognition of gay and lesbian couples.
Additionally, a Greenberg Quinlan Rosner poll conducted in 2010 found support for civil unions across political parties and religious affiliations, including 61 percent of Republicans, 84 percent of independents, 70 percent of Catholics, 67 percent of Protestants, and 55 percent of “born again Christians.”
Against that backdrop, Republican committee members took it upon themselves to impose their own narrow and intolerant world view — instead of sending the measure to the full House for an up or down vote.
“In the past two months, there have been more than 18,000 emails, calls, and postcards to legislators in support of this measure. A coalition of nearly one million Coloradans support this measure. And poll after poll reinforces that Colorado voters support this measure by a wide margin – Democrats and Republicans alike. Today, Republicans were out-of-touch with Colorado voters,” Clark continued.
Prior to today’s hearing, hundreds of supporters of civil unions held a rally and called on Republican leadership to give SB-172 a full up-or-down vote in the House. Governor John Hickenlooper’s Chief of Staff, Roxane White, read a letter from the Governor at this event, echoing this call for debate in the entire House.
“Senate Bill 172 deserves to be heard in a fair and open discussion by the full Colorado House of Representatives. We join you in urging the House Judiciary Committee to send the bill to their colleagues for a full House vote,” wrote Governor John Hickenlooper. “We look forward to the day when all Coloradans, regardless of sexual orientation, are afforded the same legal rights as their neighbors, their co-workers, their friends, and their family members.”
The coalition advocating for civil unions includes more than 100 organizations representing nearly 1 million Coloradans. Additionally, more than 160 faith leaders have endorsed the bill. This broad base of support illustrates that civil unions are an important issue not just for gay and lesbian organizations but for communities and leaders of faith, civil rights groups, business leaders, labor organizations, women’s rights groups, and public health organizations.
“This is not the end. We are looking at all options moving forward. We are not turning our backs on Colorado families and kids. And we will win. Whether it’s today or tomorrow or next year or the next – we will win. Gay and lesbian couples in this state will have the full protection under the law,” said Clark.