Same-sex couples are doing the hard work of building strong families all across the state, but they are denied the protections and responsibilities they need to take care of their families.
In 2006, the voters of Colorado amended our state’s Constitution to deny same-sex couples the rights granted to married couples. Given the difficult path to achieving marriage for same-sex couples — at One Colorado, we are committed to securing equal protection for our families through civil unions legislation.
Over the past two years, One Colorado and our thousands of supporters have gained overwhelming momentum in the fight to advance civil unions. Watch a video of our journey to advance civil unions during the 2012 legislative session:
The 2011 Legislative Session
During the 2011 Legislative Session, Senator Pat Steadman and Representative Mark Ferrandino introduced the Colorado Civil Union Act to provide all committed couples with equal protection under the law. In support of this critical piece of legislation, One Colorado built a coalition of more than 100 organizations representing nearly one million Coloradans; earned the endorsement of every major newspaper in the state; conducted outreach in communities of color and faith communities; trained dozens of LGBT Coloradans to tell their stories to the media; and coordinated nearly 19,000 contacts with state legislators in support of civil unions.
Civil unions legislation passed the Colorado Senate with bi-partisan support (23-12) but was blocked from moving forward in the House. One Colorado — and the bill’s sponsors — vowed to come back to continue the fight for equality.
The 2012 Legislative Session
During the 2012 legislative session, One Colorado grew our broad-based coalition in support of civil unions (reaching 140 organizations representing 1.2 million Coloradans) and continued our outreach to newspaper editorial boards and other community stakeholders. And more than ever, we focused on connecting LGBT Coloradans with their legislators–generating more than 25,000 letters, phone calls, e-mails, and visits to the Capitol in support of equal protection for same-sex couples.
As expected, the Senate passed civil unions with overwhelming bipartisan support (23-12), and the bill moved to the House Judiciary committee, the same committee that killed civil unions in 2011. That’s when everything changed.
Shocking the entire state and proving wrong those who had proclaimed civil unions was dead on arrival in the House — Representative BJ Nikkel (R-Loveland) defied party leadership and cast a “yes” vote. Her vote, won by the thousands of Coloradans who contacted her in support of the bill, put her on the right side of history.
After winning Representative Nikkel’s vote, civil unions then moved to the House Finance Committee — where Representative Don Beezley (R-Broomfield) bravely stood to vote in favor — and on to the Appropriations Committee, where Representative Cheri Gerou (R-Evergreen) did the same, proving that support for civil unions is truly emerging as a mainstream position in the Republican Party.
Civil unions had gotten further than anyone thought possible, winning approval from three Republican-controlled committees. Its next hurdle: the floor of the House, where it was assured passage with the support of all House Democrats and three (perhaps more) House Republicans.
But instead of allowing the bill a vote on the House floor, Speaker of the House Frank McNulty (R-Highlands Ranch) and his leadership team stalled, filibustered, and called a recess — abusing his power and letting the clock run out on the session in order to kill civil unions and more than 30 other bills important to Coloradans. It was a shocking display of partisan politics unlike anyone has ever seen in Colorado.
Governor John Hickenlooper, a long-time supporter of civil unions, called a special session to grant lawmakers more time — the time they claimed to need to debate civil unions. And despite the overwhelming support for the measure among Coloradans and legislators, McNulty sent the bill to his well-known “kill committee,” where he new it would die. And die, it did.
The actions in the waning days of the 2012 legislative session shocked and angered all fair-minded Coloradans. And at One Colorado, we’re committed to holding Speaker McNulty and House leadership accountable for their actions.
Our sights are set on the 2012 election, where we’re committed to supporting those legislators who have stood with us to advance equality these past many years. We’re raising money, knocking on doors, and making phone calls in support of lawmakers who will stand on the right side of history and vote to protect all loving families. Come November, we believe we will have a pro-equality majority in the Senate and the House to advance civil unions and other measures important to LGBT Coloradans.