by Chet Hardin
It feels like we've been down this road before, doesn't it?
The state Senate Democrats look poised to sweep through a bill that would establish civil unions in Colorado, just as they did last year. If that happens, the House Republicans will have their chance to kill the bill in committee, just as they did last year.
There's no reason to think that they won't.
According to Rep. Mark Waller, who represents the Springs' House District 15 and also serves as the House assistant majority leader, as far as his reading of the SB12-002 is concerned, nothing has changed from last year's offering.
Last year, the House Judiciary Committee, on which Waller sits, voted 6-5 to kill the bill. It was a straight party-line vote, with Colorado Springs' Republicans representing half of the no votes.
Reps. Bob Gardner and Mark Barker chair and co-chair the committee.
Waller states that he has no idea if the bill will die in committee this year.
"I would never presume to speak for everybody on the committee," he says. "Maybe somebody changed their mind."
He does add, however, that if the bill comes to his committee with language identical to last year's bill, how he'll vote shouldn't be a surprise: "I cast a 'no' vote on it last year, and I don't think that's changing."
Waller explained his vote to kill the bill last year as a constitutional matter, saying that the civil unions bill was just an attempted end-run around the 2006 state constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. It's an argument that he's sticking by this year; he suggests that the path to civil unions lies in the ballot.
"Go get the signatures, and put it on the ballot. If the polling data is where they say it is, they should be able to go get the signatures," Waller says, "and put it on the ballot, because it's at the ballot where this issue has been decided."
This year, he adds that he finds it disingenuous that the Democrats waited until Republicans took control of the House to introduce and push a civil unions bill.
"They waited till Republicans took control of the state House to run this two years in a row. This is a political issue," he says. "It takes focus off what this upcoming election ought to be about: jobs and the economy. It plays right into their hands by making this election about social issues."
The bill has yet to pass out of the Senate.