News (USA)

All eyes on the House, civil unions at Colorado LGBT Lobby Day

Vicki Thompson tapped her foot while she peered through the lobby window into the Colorado House chamber. Her eyes, like lasers, focused on her state representative, Brian DelGrosso.

Supporters of the 2012 Colorado Civil Union Act pause at the north entrance of the Colorado Capitol to take a photo before lobbying lawmakers to pass legislation that would create relationship recognition for same-sex couples.

Supporters of the 2012 Colorado Civil Union Act pause at the north entrance of the
Colorado Capitol to take a photo before lobbying lawmakers to pass legislation that would
create relationship recognition for same-sex couples.

The Loveland woman, partnered with another woman for 18 years and mother of two, was on a mission: make sure DelGrosso, a Republican, knows she wants him to support the Colorado Civil Union Act, despite the fact he cast a deciding vote against the legislation last year.

“We really want the protections and responsibilities that will protect our kids and our family,” she said. “And we really think civil unions will help.”

Thompson was one of about 180 LGBT Coloradans and allies who took to the Colorado Capitol Feb. 27 to share their stories and feelings with lawmakers who are debating a bill that would establish civil unions in the Centennial State. The 2012 lobby day was organized by One Colorado, a statewide LGBT advocacy organization.


In conjunction with Lobby Day, One Colorado also delivered 7,000 postcards and launched a new campaign Chains of Love.

The civil union legislation is sponsored by out gay lawmaker Sen. Pat Steadman (D-Denver). He sponsored a similar bill in 2011 that was killed by the Republican controlled House Judiciary Committee on a party-line vote.

The 2012 version of the bill has already cleared two Senate committees.

The bill is expected to clear its third and final committee, appropriations, which Steadman chairs and the Democratic controlled Senate with bipartisan support.

Steadman, One Colorado and House Minority Leader Rep. Mark Ferrandino, the gay Denver Democrat who sponsored the bill in the House last year, are still trying to secure a Republican sponsor for the bill in the House.

Their collective hope is that if a member of the GOP signs onto the bill, it will be more difficult for party leaders to arrange for the legislation to be killed like supporters claim Speaker of the House Frank McNulty and Republican leader Amy Stephens did last year.

Ferrandino has said since the introduction of the bill in 2011 that he has enough votes to make the bill become law if the bill reaches the House floor.

Republican representatives that have publicly endorsed the bill but have yet to attach their name to the legislation include Reps. Kevin Priola, Laura Bradford, and Larry Liston.

Despite previous reports that Priola wouldn’t sponsor the bill, the Henderson lawmaker told Out Front Colorado he hasn’t committed one way or the other.

“There’s tons of bills out there,” he said.

One reason why advocates claim they’re having a hard time securing a sponsor — and committee votes — is because centrist Republicans fear a primary challenger from the far right.

But that might not be the case if the bill advances on the right timeframe.

First, all GOP primary contests will be locked up by mid-April, about the same time Steadman plans to hear the bill at his committee and send it to the full Senate, according to a post on his website.

Second, Rep. B.J. Nikkel, a House Judiciary Committee member who voted against the civil union act last year isn’t seeking re-election. Nikkel was drawn into the same House district as DelGrosso and decided to bow out rather than run against her Republican colleague in a primary.

Nikkel told civil unions supporters during Lobby Day, “when it comes to the House, it will get a fair hearing. And we’ll see what she can do.”

However, the Loveland Republican is also on the record saying the bill “won’t happen.”

And despite some House Democrats telling civil union supporters there’s no way Republicans will allow the bill to reach the floor, lesbian Rep. Sue Schafer, D-Wheat Ridge, said she has hope.

“There’s always an opportunity to educate members of the judiciary committee who have many — not only LGBT constituents — but family and friends who are LGBT,” she said. “They’re educable.”

Schafer said she hopes “some brave person,” perhaps Nikkel, will sponsor the bill.

“I would hope she would have the ethics and courage to stand up for what’s right,” Schafer said.

After nearly three hours of waiting in the House lobby, barely moving a foot from where she first locked onto DelGrosso’s postion at the front of the House chamber, Loveland’s Vicki Thompson got her meeting.

“He spent a good half hour — 40 minutes — with us,” she said outside the Capitol on her way to lunch before a de-briefing with One Colorado at a church two blocks away.

In the end, DelGrosso was cordial, attentive, and curious, Thompson said. But non-committal.

“He’s very concerned we’re just trying to put more laws (into effect),” she said. “We spoke with him about civil unions really being between two committed people … and that even if there are just one or two points that help families take care each other, isn’t that enough?”

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