Steadman eyes House Judiciary Committee as likely high hurdle for civil unions bill

Lawmakers, staffers, lobbyists and reporters shuffle through the narrow hallways between committee rooms in the capitol. Not enough chairs line the walls between the doors. It’s an anteroom heavy with murmuring gossip and speculation. Although showy debate flares up on occasion in the two-story-high House and Senate chambers, much of the real action takes place in these tiny committee rooms. Sitting outside one of the committee rooms, Sen. Pat Steadman told the Colorado Independent he believes the fate of SB 172, the same-sex civil unions bill he introduced Monday, will be decided by the members of the House Judiciary Committee.

It makes sense that the bill would go to the Judiciary Committee. Steadman’s bill is about establishing a legal contract equal to marriage for same-sex couples, a matter that certainly involves the courts. This year, however, the House Judiciary Committee may have another function. It may be the place House leadership is sending bills to die, a sort of legislative executioner’s chamber this year.

“It could be the kill committee,” Steadman said, tilting his head to the side and turning a palm toward the ceiling. There’s not a single thing Steadman can do about it. There are always kill committees and this one, if it is one, is a House committee. Republican Speaker of the House Frank McNulty is the one to decide this year what House bills go where– this way to the green-light land or that way along the rails to no-way-back ville.

The eleven-member Judiciary Committee is chaired by Rep. Bob Gardner, one of several El Paso County Republicans on the committee, including Vice Chair Mark Barker, Pete Lee and Mark Waller. Ranking Democratic member Boulder Rep. Claire Levy is one of only four committee Democrats.

Denver Rep. Mark Ferrandino has signed on as the House sponsor for Steadman’s bill.

Steadman and supporters of the bill believe it has a good chance of passing should it make it through committees and onto the floor for voting.

Gay rights organization OneColorado today hand-delivered hundreds of notes from constituents supporting the bill addressed to their representatives and senators.

The bill:

Civil Unions

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