Colorado legislature meets on civil unions

CNN Wire Service

The Colorado legislature met Monday in extraordinary session to consider a number of bills that were not brought to the floor last week, chief among them a civil-unions bill that has strong bipartisan support.

House Speaker Frank McNulty, who opposes civil unions, made no secret that he also opposed the special session, which was called by Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat.

“Planting corn today,” the Republican speaker tweeted on Sunday. “What I should be doing tomorrow insread (sic) of a special session for the legislature.”

He expressed similar sentiments on Monday, when he tweeted, “Special legislative session on same sex marriage brought to you by Colorado Gov @hickforco and cost picked up by Colorado families.”

But the bill is not about same-sex marriage, which is banned under Colorado’s constitution. Instead, it is about civil unions. And that was not the only bill that Hickenlooper said he wished would have passed during the regular session.

“On the next-to-last day of our legislative session, the civil-unions bill came out of committees and they just filibustered,” Hickenlooper told CNN on Sunday. “They wouldn’t let it come to the floor, and when it died, 30 other bills died. And these are important to our businesses. There’s over $60 million of water projects. We’re reforming our unemployment insurance, which is very important to the business community, so I really had to call a special session to bring the legislature back to discuss this.

“Once it’s come out of all the committees, our whole process allows us, almost demands for us, to be able to have an open debate and then let our elected leaders vote.”

Asked whether the civil unions bill would pass, the governor said, “Well, it depends on Frank.”

Hickenlooper noted that McNulty had said he planned to start with a blank slate and pick new committees. “That doesn’t bode well,” the governor said. “But I hope, as he wrestles with this issue himself and recognizes that we are not talking about marriage, we’re talking about civil unions — and just making sure that people have the same rights.”

Outside the Capitol before the special session began, more than 100 gay rights advocates demonstrated Monday morning in a call for McNulty “to give us a fair hearing,” said Jace Woodrum, deputy executive director of One Colorado, a statewide advocacy organization for gay and transgender Colorodans.

He described as “shameful and unprecedented” last week’s House shutdown, which blocked consideration not only of the civil-unions bill, but of more than 30 other bills.

McNulty did not immediately return a call seeking comment.