DENVER — The Governor of Colorado on Wednesday said he’ll call the state General Assembly to a special session to take up the unresolved issue of the Colorado Civil Union Act.
The bill died last night on the House of Representatives regular calendar after leaders of both parties were unable to resolve an impasse on the matter.
John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, at a press conference said his office was flooded with phone calls — more than 500 since the morning — asking for a special session.
“This isn’t an issue about Democrats or Republicans,” Hickenlooper said. “But about people — and their rights.”
Speaker of the House Frank McNulty, R-Highlands Ranch, and other Republicans claimed Democrats didn’t give them enough time to move the bill through the House, despite their own bill regarding the Lower North Fork Fire being passed through both chambers in four days.
The governor, who has called for the bill’s passage in his State of the State Address, said if the House of Representatives needed more time, he’d give it to them.
“Our goal is that we do everything we can, to make sure there is a fair and open debate for the House, Senate and they each to get to discuss, to allow people to vote on it, and that we move forward,” he said. “That we move this entire state forward.”
McNulty at a press conference gave reporters no indication that his position on the bill had changed.
“If the governor wants to make this special session about gay marriage, than that’s his prerogative,” McNulty said.
“It is ironic to me that the governor would choose to use his bully pulpit for the purpose of gay marriage but stand on the sidelines when families suffer, when Coloradans continue to look for work and unemployment remains too high,” he said. “Those are the issues Coloradans are concerned about. … And that is our focus.”
The governor’s announcement came less than an hour after President Barack Obama announced his support for full marriage equality for same-sex couples.
“Everyone deserves the same legal rights in this country,” Hickenlooper said.
The special session is expected to begin either Friday or Monday. The regular session ends today.
The governor dictates which issues and bills are discussed, but ultimately McNulty and his GOP leadership team — which have vocalized opposition to the bill — set the agenda for its chamber.
One Colorado, the state’s largest LGBT advocacy organization, called the governor’s decision brave.
“The people of Colorado spoke, and the governor listened,” said Brad Clark, the organization’s executive director.
“Every day that this goes on, more and more voters get to know and love our families.”
CitizenLink, the political arm of Focus on the Family, disagrees.
“Some bills die at the end of each legislative session,” said Carrie Gordon Earrll. ”It’s a limited calendar and time runs out. It’s unfortunate that the governor has decided that it’s this year and this civil unions bill that merit an expensive special session.”