Colorado civil unions session to start next week |

Colorado civil unions session to start next week

Ivan Moreno
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado

DENVER – The debate over civil unions in Colorado is expected to continue Monday during a legislative special session as the attention to gay rights grows nationally with President Barack Obama endorsing same-sex marriage.

Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper said Thursday that legislators in the special session will be asked to consider seven issues including civil unions, penalties for driving under the influence of marijuana, and a water projects proposal. All died on the Colorado House calendar Tuesday as the debate over civil unions stalled before the Legislature adjourned Wednesday.

The governor was at times emotional Wednesday when he announced his intent to call lawmakers back to work to debate the civil unions bill, which House Republicans had refused to bring up for a vote.

Hickenlooper said there was an “overwhelming need to discuss civil unions.” He made the announcement the same day Obama said gay couples should be allowed to marry.

House Republicans have a 33-32 voting advantage, but Democrats have maintained they have enough votes to get the civil unions bill passed. Three Republicans joined Democrats in getting the bill out of committees and onto the floor, but the bill was never debated there. The Republicans’ voting edge in the House allows them broad discretion to control what is considered.

The bill this year had already cleared the Democratic-controlled Senate. But it remained unclear whether the special session would get civil unions to a vote of the full House.

Republican Frank McNulty, who opposes civil unions, did not say Wednesday after Hickenlooper announced the special session whether civil unions would get a vote by the full House.

“It is ironic to me that the governor would choose to use his bully pulpit for the purpose of gay marriage and stand on the sidelines as families suffer, as Coloradoans continue to look for work and as unemployment remains too high,” he said.

Although McNulty repeatedly referred to civil unions as gay marriage, same-sex couples in Colorado would not be able to marry. Voters here banned gay marriage in 2006.

Civil unions would grant gay couples rights similar to marriage, including the ability to make medical decisions for their partners. They also would enhance parental and inheritance rights.

This will be the Legislature’s first special session since 2006, when lawmakers were called to Denver to consider immigration bills.

More than a dozen states allow either gay marriage or civil unions, including several that moved to pass such laws this year.

On Tuesday, North Carolina voters approved a constitutional amendment that bars civil unions and defines marriage as solely between a man and a woman.

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