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Civil unions bill passes Colorado House committee

Community/Meta Marriage equality

By Jacob Combs

Last night, in a major victory for advocates in the state, the Republican-led Colorado House Judiciary Committee, on a 6-5 vote, passed a civil unions bill which was approved in the Senate last week.  This same committee was the one that rejected the measure last year, denying it the chance of a full House vote.

The deciding vote last night came from Rep. B. J. Nikkel, a Republican from Larimer County who voted against the measure last year.  Nikkel is not up for reelection, and said that she was convinced to vote yes by the gay couples in the audience yesterday, many of them wearing red shirts that said “One Love,” who far outnumbered their opponents in the chamber and shared stories with her for hours about the difficulties of living without legal protections.  “I was looking over the crowd and thinking, ‘These are all folks that deserve to be treated equally,'” Nikkel said.  Earlier in the legislative session, Nikkel had garnered the anger of social conservatives by refusing to pledge a no vote on the bill, saying she wanted to listen to testimony first.

The bill, which provides gay couples more protections in medical and end-of-life matters as well as parental rights, will face votes in two more committees, Finance and Appropriations.  The legislature’s session ends on Wednesday, and sponsors will have to face tight deadlines to land the legislation on the desk of Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat who called for the legislature to pass a civil unions bill during his State of the State speech in January.  Still, the measure’s supporters are hopeful: Republicans hold a razor-thin 33-32 majority in the House, meaning the bill needs the support of only Republican to pass, should it come up for a full House vote.

Check out this video of highlights from last night’s vote, from the Denver Post.

UPDATE: H/t to Towleroad for compiling these.  There are still several hurdles for the civil unions bill on its way through the house before Wednesday.  There was concern that House Judiciary Committee chairman Rep. Bob Gardner would postpone signing the report that the bill had passed his committee, preventing the bill from moving forward. But Gardner signed the report today at noon.

Gardner’s move allows Speaker Frank McNulty to “read the bill across the desk,” which allows Finance Committee chairman Rep. Brian DelGrosso to schedule a hearing.  DelGrosso had said he would hold a hearing if he received the bill.  According to the Denver Post, the civil unions bill could be heard by the Finance Committee this afternoon.  The bill must be heard on the House floor by Tuesday at the latest, so that a formal vote could occur on Wednesday, the final day of the legislative session.

Long story short: Republicans in the chamber haven’t held up the measure very much up until this point.  But they still have time to.  Yesterday’s committee vote (and Rep. Gardner’s move to sign the bill quickly) are both excellent news, but it behooves us to exercise caution until the bill is on the governor’s desk.

6 Comments

  • 1. peterplumber  |  May 4, 2012 at 8:31 am

    Nikkel had garnered the anger of social conservatives by refusing to pledge a no vote on the bill, saying she wanted to listen to testimony first.

    We need more politicians with that type of attitude, people who will vote based on fact, rather on party platform lines.

  • 2. Sheryl_Carver  |  May 4, 2012 at 9:04 am

    It's a sad reality that many elected officials risk losing their jobs if they vote to uphold civil rights for ALL people. The targeted minorities change, but the ignorance & bigotry of too many voters never seems to. The article noted that she is NOT up for reelection. Who knows if that influenced her vote. What does matter is that she voted "yes."

  • 3. AnonyGrl  |  May 4, 2012 at 9:55 am

    Too true! Sad that keeping the job all too often seems more important to politicians than DOING the job.

  • 4. Sagesse  |  May 4, 2012 at 11:36 am

    @

  • 5. Matt  |  May 4, 2012 at 3:09 pm

    I am curious to see how Rep. Nikkel would have voted had she been up for re-election again. I don't know her at all, but I have a hunch that the fact that she isn't running again may be a factor in her positive vote.

  • 6. David Henderson  |  May 4, 2012 at 3:44 pm

    The bill just passed the House Finance Committee on a 7-6 vote: Representative Don Beezley, R-Broomfield, joined the six Democrats on the committee to send the bill on to the Appropriations Committee.

    Appropriations will have to hear the bill by Tuesday at the latest in order for it to go to a vote by the full House on Wednesday (the last day of the session). If they don't hear by Tuesday, then the bill is dead this session.

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