NOREEN: Both parties played games with civil unions

May 3, 2012
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It’s too bad the civil unions issue was turned into a political football this year by both parties in the Colorado Legislature.

Both Republicans and Democrats behaved in cynical fashion. You, readers, can decide which party was more cynical.

The House Judiciary Committee’s hearing on the civil unions bill went into Thursday evening before it was approved on a 6-5 vote. But even with that OK and all the accompanying hope that this will be the year for change, the Republican leaders will simply reassign the bill to another committee — and the session ends in six days.

Some GOP House members have said they would vote for the bill and nearly all the Democrats would, so there’s no doubt it would pass if given a chance on the House floor. Rep. Amy Stephens, R-Monument and the House majority leader, and Rep. Mark Waller, R-Colorado Springs and the House assistant majority leader, both acknowledged civil unions would be law if the entire House held a vote.

Stephens confirmed that because the civil unions bill would cost $2 million to implement, it would be sent to a fiscal committee for review.

“Two million is quite a big fiscal note,” Stephens said, noting that the number looms even larger because the state’s budget already has been approved.

Thus the House leadership decided to kill a bill they knew would pass with some support from their own party. A powerful minority beats the majority again — cynical.

This isn’t about slamming Stephens or Waller. They’ve consistently opposed civil unions bills in the past and besides, Colorado Democrats played a cynical game of their own.

The civil unions legislation is Senate Bill 2 — only one other bill was introduced before civil unions at the beginning of the session. It went through Senate but the $2 million fiscal note was attached, so it went to the Senate Appropriations Committee and languished.

Then, after the state budget bill was approved, the Democrat-controlled Senate voted the bill over to the House (four working days), knowing that the $2 million now loomed large, and also that there is little time left in the session to complete work on it in the House.

The gay community, which has made civil unions its top legislative priority, mobilized with rallies and social media communications. It helped to activate the Democrats’ base — the civil unions story got big play in Denver Thursday.

Readers, which party was more cynical? The one that used its power to stifle the majority, or the one whose half-hearted support now appears to have been mainly aimed at keeping loyalists active in an election year?

Tough call. A pox on both their houses.

Listen to Barry Noreen on KRDO NewsRadio 105.5 FM and 1240 AM at 6:35 a.m. on Fridays and follow him on Facebook and Twitter.


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