Colorado Senator Pat Steadman isn’t depending entirely on goodwill and a sense of fairness among his colleagues at the capitol to pass the same-sex civil unions bill he will introduce next week. He is also depending on the very smart legislative strategy he has built around public support for the idea in the state.
In an interview with Denis Dison at Gay Politics, Steadman said his bill will list in detail the rights it will confer upon couples now denied the legal right to marry, forcing opponents to articulate exactly which rights they want to continue to deny gay Coloradans.
“I think it’s important to show what’s at stake, what rights and responsibilities most people take for granted,” he told Dison. “So my bill will detail each of those, and I’ll ask opponents to be specific about which rights they think same-sex couples don’t deserve. These aren’t special rights. These are all things most people take for granted, because they’re things families deal with at the kitchen table all the time.”
Steadman has also polled his colleagues and learned where he has to apply pressure. By his count, the bill will pass the Senate and will win a majority of votes in the House. The question is, will the new GOP leadership in the House allow the bill to get to the floor for a vote.
“I know there is majority support for this bill in the House. There are enough Republicans willing to support it, so that’s not a question. The question is whether the Speaker and his committee chairs will allow it to come to the House floor, and only they can give us that answer.”
Much has changed demographically and culturally on the ground since Coloradans passed Amendment 43 in 2006 outlawing gay marriage. More than 70 percent of Coloradans now support civil unions. As the Colorado Independent reported Monday, gay rights group OneColorado is working with a coalition of more than 60 state groups it says represent more than a half million Coloradans. As Gay Politics notes, many state newspaper editorial boards have urged lawmakers to pass civil unions legislation.
What’s more, the word “marriage” is not a factor in the bill, which in effect strips out some of the at least instinctual-level religious questions the issue raises and underlines instead basic American notions of fairness and equality under the law.
Steadman will depend on the public to lean on House leadership. OneColorado and its Strong Families Coalition will be key in that effort, organizing email and phone bank campaigns as well as lobbying efforts in local communities and in Denver. Lawmakers opposing the bill will be pressed repeatedly to make the legal case for the their stand.
The state has already passed same-sex rights bills, like the one that granted partners of state employees the right to health benefits. Steadman said the time for this bill is now and he’s not giving up.
”This is an issue whose time has come,” he told Gay Politics. “The public is ready, my colleagues are ready, and I’m going to keep proposing it until it’s done.”