DENVER — Unable to reach a compromise on how or when the Colorado Civil Union Act would be debated by the House of Representatives, leaders of both parties announced at about 11 p.m. Tuesday: the bill is dead.
“We’ve reached an impasse,” Speaker of the House Frank McNulty said. “We will do our best to conclude the work we’ve already undertaken. Unfortunately, there will be items that do not receive consideration from the House because of this impasse.”
One of those items is the bill sponsored by Rep. Mark Ferrandino and Sen. Pat Steadman that would have extended legal relationship recognition to same-sex couples.
More than 30 bills will die along with it.
“We’ll save what we can save,” McNulty said. “The impasse on civil unions is where we are procedurally. It’s where we stay.”
The announcement came more than two hours after the House went into recess.
“We are at an impasse at civil unions and that is not going to be resolved tonight,” McNulty said. “We attempted to work through several different scenarios.”
The Republican leadership called the timeout after Democrats and two members of the Republican caucus formed an effective majority, and made a motion to halt the agenda in order to force a debate on the bill.
“They don’t want the House to debate this,” Ferrandino said.
Republicans had been running out the clock to prevent a vote on the civil unions bill, filibustering with extended debate on two other bills: the first a ban on trans fats in food served in public schools, the second regarding special commemorative license plates. One Amendment was discussed for nearly 40 minutes by a handful of Republican lawmakers.
“I don’t blame the Democrats, I don’t blame a member of the Republican caucus, these things happen,” McNulty said. “It is unfortunate when they do happen.”
Gov. John Hickenlooper, a supporter of the Colorado Civil Union Act, had attempted to play peacemaker, Ferrandino said.
“It’s unfortunate we didn’t get that Hickenlooper magic in the end,” he said. “He tried his hardest to get this done. And I appreciate that.”
The announcement that the civil unions bill would not be brought up for a vote was met with boos from supporters sitting in the gallery overlooking the House floor.
“Shame on you!” they chanted.
“All we ask is you guys give us a chance,” a supporter yelled.
The entire gallery was cleared by sergeants after one supporter yelled, “I hope you all die!”
The leading lobbying organization advocating for the bill said the LGBT community will have remember the events of May 8 in November.
“House leadership decided today that it was more important to play politics than do the people’s business. Although a clear majority of Colorado voters support civil unions—and a clear majority of our Representatives agree with them—House leadership killed the bill, proving just how out-of-touch they are with everyday Coloradans,” said executive director of One Colorado Brad Clark. “In November, Colorado voters will not forget that House leadership obstructed the legislative process by killing a bill that was assured passage on the House floor. Because of their decision, Colorado families will be hurt.”
The Colorado Civil Unions Act is effectively dead because each piece of Colorado legislation that is to become law needs two votes on different days in each chamber.
The bill had cleared the Senate with bipartisan support in late April. It went to the Republican controlled chamber where a similar bill died last year.
The Speaker assigned the bill to the House Judiciary Committee where Rep. B.J. Nikkel, R-Loveland, stunned her party and the public — breathing new life into the legislation — by switching her vote from no to yes.
The bill cleared two other committees with Republican support. The bill was expected to pass had it received a full debate by the House.
Republicans blamed Democrats for delaying the bill’s progress until the end of session — but Sen. Steadman said it was the Republican Speaker Pro Tem who asked him to hold the bill until it was too late for Republicans to face a primary challenge from the Right.
The idea of a special session to pass the bill has been floated by Capitol insiders and The Denver Post editorial board has encouraged the governor to exercise his right to call one to resolve the matter.