Civil union supporters hold a rally at the Colorado State Capitol on May… (RJ Sangosti / Denver Post )
Colorado Republican leaders were attempting to avoid discussion of civil union legislation ahead of a special session called by the governor to consider that issue and a half-dozen other topics.
The session is to start Monday, and this week, the legislature’s Republicans appeared divided on the issue. Some supported the legislation, which the Democratic-controlled state Senate has already passed; others blocked its consideration.
The debate comes at a time when the country is grappling with the issue, highlighted by the president’s announcement Wednesday that he supports same-sex marriage.
Gov. John Hickenlooper, a Democrat, issued an executive order Thursday calling for the special session specifically to address civil unions.
“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,” the governor wrote. “Civil union is not marriage. Many couples living in Colorado have publicly expressed a desire to enter into civil unions that would afford them critical legal benefits, protections and responsibilities that the state grants to other couples.”
Soon after Hickenlooper called the special session, Republican House Speaker Frank McNulty held a news conference in Denver, ostensibly to discuss the legislature’s accomplishments this year, although he ended up fielding questions about civil unions. McNulty stressed that the governor has the right to call the special session, but that he disagrees with it.
Afterward, McNulty released a statement criticizing the governor for his decision without mentioning civil unions by name.
“It’s clear that he cluttered his call for a special session with bills that could have passed yesterday with bipartisan support,” McNulty wrote. “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. It’s not lost on us that Gov. Hickenlooper stood silent last year as Senate Democrats killed numerous important bills as time ran out on the 2011 session.”
The special session is expected to cost $23,500 per day, with 15 days budgeted this fiscal year, according to the governor’s office. The last special session was called in 2006 to address immigration legislation and lasted five days during which legislators passed a dozen bills.
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