With competing rallies on opposite sides of the capitol–supporting and opposing civil unions–it was the action inside that mattered. On a party line vote, civil unions died in the House Judiciary Committee late last night.
Outside, prayers were offered on either side of the Capitol Thursday as supporters and detractors of civil unions made their stand for their vision of America. Though the bill was ultimately to die in the House Judiciary Committee Thursday night, passions of hope and concern ran high on both sides of the political divide throughout the day.
On the east side of the Capitol, a predominately conservative Christian turnout of citizens, clergy and Republican legislators circled in groups to pray for the demise of civil unions legislation they said would hurt children and further diminish the structure of marriage. However, it was clear to most political observers that, with the majority of Republican members of the House Judiciary Committee hailing from conservative districts, it was gay rights advocates who were riding on little more than a hope and a prayer.
Standing on the West Steps of the Capitol, hundreds of people including Democratic legislators, would be Denver mayors and the LGBT community pushed for support of the bill they hoped would bring equity to to what they called a matter of civil rights.
“I’m old enough to remember being called nigger as a standard way of communication; I’m old enough to remember when I did not count as a whole person,” one LGBT advocate and civil union supporter, who is black, told the audience. “I don’t feel like we are too far off from that today. I don’t feel like what we are talking about around civil unions is too far off from what that discrimination would feel like to those who are most affected.”
Gov. Hickenlooper was unable to attend but wrote a strongly worded letter urging the House committee to allow a vote on the floor. The governor went on to liken the issue to civil rights and said he looked forward to a day when sexual orientation discrimination did not exist.
“We look forward to the day when all Coloradans regardless of their sexual orientation, and without regard to their sexual relations are offered the same equal rights as their neighbors, their coworkers and their family members,” Roxane White, chief of staff for Hickenlooper, read from Hickenlooper’s statement. “Civil rights, just like civil unions, should apply equally to everyone under out states laws.”
Bishop James Conely, who spoke to those opposing the legislation, said that the bill would further erode the family structure and hurt children.
“Redefining marriage denies the uniqueness between men and women and purposefully denies more children the right to a mom and dad,” Conely said. “And we know that children are hard-wired to flourish when they grow up in a family with a mother and a father.”
Pastor Roger Anghis led a prayer with detractors of the bill calling on the heavenly father to lead members of the committee to vote against the legislation and what he called the forgivable abomination of civil unions.
“Heavenly Father, we come before you this morning and we have a heavy heart for what is trying to be done in the state of Colorado. We have people who are trying to push a lifestyle on us that is an abomination in your eyes,” Anghis said. “We ask Father that you come on our side. We ask Father for favor when we go inside today.”
After the prayer, Rep. Kevin Lundberg, R-Berthoud also took the opportunity to speak before the crowd in opposition. He told the group that the supreme ruler of the universe had established the institution of marriage and that the truth of its establishment was not to be found in civil union legislation.
After the vote, which saw SB 172 failing on a party line 6-7 vote, House sponsor of the legislation Mark Ferrandino, D-Denver, commented in a press release that while they had lost the battle they had not yet lost the way–a sentiment held by Ferrandino and many who rallied in favor of civil unions Thursday.
“I’m disappointed by my Republican colleagues and am astounded at how they sat through the same hours of emotional testimony that I did, the same testimony that brought tears to so many in the audience, from couples and families all over this state, whose lives swung in the balance of this decision, and looked us in the eye as they voted no,” Ferrandino said in a statement after the vote. “But this is not the end. We are looking at all options moving forward and we are not turning our backs on Colorado families and kids.”
Below, footage from the anti-civil unions rally: