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Civil unions bill could fail again unless Republican supporters step up

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Last March, Senator Pat Steadman told us he believed the civil unions bill he sponsored would pass the Colorado House, as it had the state senate, if not blocked by extremists. In the end, however, it fell one vote short in committee, with all six of the panel's GOP members rejecting it.

This year, Steadman hopes the rebooted measure won't suffer the same fate, but he's concerned it could happen again.

Senate Bill 2, as it's been dubbed, was introduced last week. However, Steadman notes that it "doesn't have a House sponsor."

Of course, plenty of Democrats would eagerly put their name on the proposal, first among them Representative Mark Ferrandino, the new House minority leader. But Steadman's hoping for a Republican to take on the cause, in part to demonstrate that the issue is bipartisan. But thus far, he hasn't had much luck.

"I've been in conversation with some members of the House about potentially becoming the sponsor," he notes, "but I haven't found the right person who's willing."

Why not? "The political landscape has changed a little bit," he posits. "With the reapportionment of legislative districts, there are dynamics going on where certain members of the House are finding themselves in primaries against each other or finding that their district has changed. There's some uncertainty, and that affects how visible or vocal they want to be on issues."

In other words, political bravery doesn't appear to be in abundant supply, and that makes Steadman anxious.

"I remain very concerned that we're going to see a repeat of last year," he concedes. "I know there's a strong majority of members of the House that would vote for the bill if it got to the floor. But it may be politically expedient to bottle it up in committee and not let it get there."

Another example of the subject's divisiveness: When Governor John Hickenlooper mentioned civil unions in his State of the State speech, several Republican lawmakers were "glued to their chairs," according to Patricia Calhoun's post on the subject. However, Steadman points out that a couple of them "applauded, too. I've seen State of the State speeches in the past where there were very pronounced situations in which half the room was applauding and the other half was sitting stoically. And it wasn't quite like that."

Steadman adds that he was "very pleased that the governor singled out that issue among so many others" to mention in his speech. But right now, Hickenlooper's support isn't as important as those Republican House members who hold the future of the legislation in their hands.

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More from our Politics archive: "Civil unions: One Colorado director Brad Clark glad for GOP group in favor of them."

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