By Jack Minor
A Democrat governor in Colorado has ordered state lawmakers back into session to deal with a plan for civil unions that failed during the regular legislative session.
The Colorado Civil Union Act passed the Democrat-controlled Senate, but died when the session ended after House Speaker Frank McNulty prevented the bill from being given a key vote.
It had been expected to pass as several Republicans in the GOP-controlled House had suggested they supported the idea.
The next day, just as Obama announced his support for homosexual “marriage,” Gov. John Hickenlooper issued an executive order to call the lawmakers to come back into session on Monday to deal with the civil unions bill.
The special session is expected to cost taxpayers $23,500 a day. The legislature’s last special session was in 2006 and was called to address immigration legislation.
McNulty said he finds the timing of the session curious and suspects the issue is motivated by the president’s need to drum up re-election support in the state, which is considered a swing state and could shift either direction.
“I suspect it’s not a coincidence the governor had President Obama’s top Colorado political operatives shuttling in and out of his office,” McNulty said. “It could be more than coincidence that the president came out in favor of gay marriage and then only hours later Hickenlooper announced a special session.”
Hickenlooper denied that presidential politics had anything to do with his decision to call the special session.
Under the Colorado Constitution the governor is permitted to call for special sessions “on extraordinary occasions.”
In the background section of the order detailing the “extraordinary circumstances” he felt required the special session, Hickenlooper cited 29 other pieces of legislation that did not pass, however the civil unions bill was the only legislation mentioned by name.
When addressing the issue he said, “We believe that it is in the public interest of the State of Colorado to provide any two adult persons with the opportunity to enter into a civil union.”
However, the actual bill is written to benefit homosexuals, as it still prohibits anyone from entering into a civil union if the individuals are “ancestor, descendant, brother, sister, uncle, aunt, niece or nephew…”
While the governor can order the legislature back into session, he has no authority to order lawmakers to approve the bill and despite his pressure, Republicans are sending signals they may refuse to take up the issue.
State Sen. Scott Renfroe, an outspoken supporter of traditional marriage, has said Senate Republicans are going to do their part to stop the bill, or failing that to attempt to guarantee religious protections to individuals who disagree with homosexuality.
While the bill specifies that clergy are not required to perform civil unions, there is no protection for business owners who may object to civil unions on religious or moral grounds. Republicans attempted to add an amendment to provide legal protections for business owners such as photographers and cake makers who object to civil unions from facing prosecution or fines for their beliefs, but it was defeated by Democrats.
Renfroe said the governor’s priorities are distorted.
“We still have some major issues with job creation in the state, and what does the governor want us to do? He calls us back to deal with social issues,” he said.
McNulty expressed similar sentiments, saying despite the governor’s order, lawmakers may refuse to take up the issue at all, focusing instead on the other legislation addressed in the special session call.
“If the governor wants to make this special session about gay marriage, then that’s his prerogative,” McNulty said. “It’s clear that he cluttered his call for a special session with bills that could have passed yesterday with bipartisan support. The governor has every right to call a special session, but let’s be clear – if the goal of this session is to pass bills that had broad, bipartisan support, we could have done that yesterday.”
Because marriage is defined in Colorado by a constitutional amendment, “gay” marriage cannot be legalized by state legislators, it must come before the people.
Preventing a rogue judge or legislators from doing so was one of the primary reasons North Carolina passed a similar amendment this week. Currently several dozen other states have similar amendments or laws defining marriage as between one man and one woman.
In an attempt to do an end run around these amendments, homosexual activists seek civil union bills, which grant them all of the same benefits of marriage without having the name.
In Colorado, supporters of the civil union bill made no secret that they had no intention of stopping with civil unions but intend to use it as a stepping stone to ultimately repeal the state’s amendment affirming traditional marriage.
Earlier this year Denver Mayor Michael Hancock and Mayor Dennis Coombs of Longmont signed a pledge calling for same-sex “marriage” recognition in all 50 states.
Coombs told a local newspaper that he would “accept civil unions as a positive step for equality in our current political environment” on the road to marriage equality.
He stirred up a hornet’s nest, however, because city council members weren’t in agreement.
“Dennis Coombs aka the new mayor of Longmont did not get approval from his council to make this endorsement. So, his backing of this issue was done as a private citizen. Not on behalf of his city nor it’s [sic] blessing. The council of the city of Longmont does not usually take formal positions on these issues,” the council said in a statement.