08 May 2012

SB 2 (Civil Unions) Still In Play UPDATED

After an editorial from the Denver Post yesterday, urging Governor Hickenlooper to call a special session on civil unions (essentially same sex marriage in all but name), if the House doesn't finish considering Senate Bill 2 (SB2), the Civil Unions bill in Colorado, by the end of the legislative session tomorrow, the state house is moving forward to consider the bill.

The House Appropriations Committee is considering the bill at 1:30 p.m. this afternoon.

If it passes that committee this afternoon (which will take at least one Republican vote on the committee, with five Republicans of the 33 in the House having said that they plan to vote for the bill, in addition to all thirty-two Democrats), the next step is a second reading on the floor of the House (a Committee of the Whole hearing where amendments may be proposed, any of which would kill the bill, since there is no time for a conference committee) where it must pass today in order to face a third reading final up or down vote by tomorrow, the last day of the legislative session. (The second and third readings are required by legislative rules to happen a day apart.) The state house's Republican leadership would prefer to kill the bill and controls the calendar, so it could simply refuse to schedule the bill for a second reading today even if it passes the House Appropriations Committee, but the House leadership is limited by decorum, common practice, and P.R. considerations in the extent to which they can use their scheduling power to kill a bill that is widely known to have majority support and has passed all of the relevant comittees.

On the merits, the appropriation from the bill of a little more than $10,000 is covered by filing fees in connection with obtaining civil unions and commencing court actions in connection with them.  The bill is effectively revenue neutral, and in any case, a pittance compared to the entire state budget.

The Second Reading and Third Reading, if they are placed on the House calendar, are expected to produce 37-28 votes, and presumably, advocates of the bill wouldn't be pushing as vigorously as they are right now if they thought that they didn't have the votes in the House Appropriations committee.

If the bill passes, Colorado will join a growing number of states with civil unions or gay marriage. California returned to that column in February when the United States Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit held that Proposition 8, which ended judicially created gay marriage in the state, was unconstitutional, although an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court is pending in that case. Washington State authorized gay marriage by legislation passed in January.

I reviewed the national legislative scene last June, when Rhode Island passed a civil unions bill, although I may have missed a development or two between then and now. By my count, if SB 2 passes, Colorado would be one of six states with civil unions (the other five would be Rhode Island, Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey and Delaware), in addition to eight states (New York, New Hampshire, Vermont, Iowa, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Washington, California) and the District of Columbia (and two U.S. recognized Indian tribal governments: the Coquille and the Suquamish) which have gay marriage. In addition, other states (including Maine, Nevada, Oregon and Wisconsin) have domestic partnership laws which have legal effects short of the equivalent of marriage under state law (although Oregon's law apparently comes close to being a civil unions law). Maryland has passed a same sex marriage bill, but it does not take effect until January 1, 2013 and could be derailed by a citizens referrendum before that date.

North Carolina voters are on the verge of considering this month a ban a state constitutional ban on same sex marriage which is likely to pass, although there is fierce campaigning on both sides of the issue.

Internationally, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, most of Western Europe, and most of Latin American recognizes same sex couples legally in some manner or another, although there is considerable variation and nuance in the details of what is recognized in which jurisdiction. In much of the rest of Africa and the Islamic world, homosexual acts are illegal.

UPDATE 5:09 p.m. and 5:20 p.m. from here:
Early in today's hearing, at which lawmakers also intend to take up a proposal to legalize civil unions, it appeared the [driving while on THC] bill might be caught up in a filibuster aimed at the later bill. Republican lawmakers opposed to civil unions repeatedly asked questions about earlier bills that, because of legislative rules, have no hope of becoming law. The pace then quickened, however, and it took about 20 minutes for the [driving while on THC] bill to clear the committee.

Per a Colorado Pols commenter posting a 5:04 based on the audio feed: "[SB2] Passes 7-6 with Gerou voting yes."

SB 2, having cleared all of the relevant committees, now has a little less than seven hours to make it to the floor of the House and survive a second reading. It has the votes on the floor of the house, but could still run out of time if the House leadership refuses to bring the bill up on the floor today (or if opponents of the bill manage to prevent the consideration of the bill on the floor today manage to prevent the house from finishing its second read consideration of the bill today). This will be down to the wire.

UPDATE 9:08 p.m.

North Carolina passed a ban on same sex marriage at the polls today.  It still isn't clear if SB 2, the Colorado Civil Unions bill, will pass or not today.  If it passes today on a second reading, it will very likely be passed on a final reading tomorrow and will be signed by the Governor.  If it doesn't pass today on a second reading (it has the votes, but a final second reading vote might be delayed until the day is over), then the bill will fail in this regular legislative session.

UPDATE 10:20 p.m.

According to 9 News the House went into recess at 10 p.m. with 30 bills awaiting consideration before a midnight deadline for second readings, and negotiations in progress.  Still down to the wire, still capable of coming out either way.

No comments: