House Republican Conti makes case for civil unions

Colorado Republican House Rep. Kathleen Conti is leaning strongly in support of civil unions. She said constituent enthusiasm and scripture won her over. “The outpouring I’ve had so far from my town halls leads me to support it,” she told the Colorado Statesman, referring to legislation introduced Monday by Sen. Pat Steadman that would grant same-sex couples who enter into a civil union the legal rights and responsibilities granted to married couples in the state.

The Littleton lawmaker is one of the first Republicans this legislative session to voice support for the bill. Senate Minority Leader Mike Kopp and House Speaker Frank McNulty have said little about the bill to the press since it was introduced. In January Kopp said only that the “people of Colorado have placed the economy and business development as a top priority.”

Steadman and the bill’s House sponsor Mark Ferrandino have said they believe the legislation will pass in the Senate and that it would also win enough votes to pass in the House, where Republicans enjoy a one-seat majority. The problem is getting the bill onto the floor of the House for a vote. Steadman told the Colorado Independent the bill will likely first have to pass through the House Judiciary Committee, which is dominated by lawmakers who may be looking to head off the bill before it moves to the House chamber for consideration.

Polls over the last two years have shown wide support for civil unions among Colorado voters. A January survey reported 72 percent support. A survey last year saw support move well above 80 percent when participants were asked to consider specific legal rights gay couples should either be granted or denied.

Conti said she has set up a poll at her website on the issue. Friday morning the Conti poll registered 88 percent in favor of civil unions and 11 percent opposed.

Conti said she knows the economy is a top concern among Coloradans but she said that at this point civil unions don’t seem to threaten her constituents. “I don’t know if it’s a non-issue,” she told the Statesman. She said that as a legislator she seeks “to be a representative of the people and for the people.”

Steadman introduced the civil unions bill on Valentine’s Day. Conti said that the prayer that opened the House proceedings that day sounded like an endorsement.

The prayer referenced the Old Testament Corinthians passage celebrating love as God’s greatest gift to the world. You can have it all, the passage cautions, the gifts of wisdom, prophecy, faith, charity, hope, but it amounts to nothing without love.

“Our prayer [that day] was so kind and so gracious,” Conti said. “His comment to me was straight out of the scripture — ‘and the greatest of these is love,’ of all God gives us, ‘the greatest of these is love,’ and I think that kind of says it.”

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