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Civil unions: Catholics, conservatives rally to celebrate bill's defeat

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At noon, a day after Republican lawmakers defeated a bill to legalize civil unions in a special legislative session, conservatives rallied on the steps of the Capitol building. The event had been planned days in advance, but due to the demise of civil unions, the tone was celebratory. House Speaker Frank McNulty, who civil union supporters vilified for assigning the bill to his so-called "kill committee," was treated like a rock star.

"We thought the fight was over in 2006," McNulty said to the crowd of a couple hundred people, some holding signs that read "Marriage = One Man + One Woman." He was referring to the passage of Amendment 43, which amended the state constitution to read that marriage is between a man and a woman. McNulty continued, "We were wrong."

As he spoke, a man in a tie-dyed shirt blew an air horn to interrupt him. The man was holding a giant sign with a rainbow-colored border that said, "When Do We Get To Vote On Your Marriage?" As the crowd began to grumble, a man who'd been standing on the Capitol steps descended from his position and walked over to the protester. He stood opposite him, holding his own sign. On top, he'd drawn a sperm with an arrow to an egg and written the word "Natural" underneath. On bottom, he'd drawn a sperm with an arrow to a pile of feces (which he spelled "faeces") and written "Un Natural Sodomy."

Yet another man interrupted by shouting questions: "Does it feel good to hate?"

McNulty didn't respond, though he did comment that everyone is entitled to free speech. Instead, he encouraged the crowd to scream and cheer to "let Governor Hickenlooper know that family matters and traditional marriage matters!" The crowd erupted.

Click through to read comments from other rally speakers. A parade of lawmakers briefly took the microphone after McNulty. Senator Kent Lambert, Representative Libby Szabo, Representative Carole Murray, Representative Robert Ramirez and Representative Chris Holbert each thanked the crowd for "your prayers and your support," without blatantly commenting on civil unions.

Senator Ted Harvey, a Highlands Ranch Republican, was more specific; he said the battle was won due to the efforts of Christian men and women, and he praised McNulty and House Majority Leader Amy Stephens for their bold positions. "Thank you to Frank and Amy for taking the shots on behalf of families," Harvey said.

When Representative Jim Kerr took to the podium, he got almost as much applause as McNulty. Kerr, a Littleton Republican, is chairman of the House State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee -- the committee that voted 5-4 last night to kill the civil unions bill. Kerr was one of the five "no" votes. "With your help, we made the difference!" Kerr said. "And with your help, we'll make the difference in November!" He was referring to the November election for state lawmakers, and Kerr made a plea on behalf of Republicans, who hold the majority in the House: "Please keep us there," he said.

Several pastors also spoke. Father Andrew Kemberling of Saint Thomas More Catholic Church in Centennial first led the crowd in a prayer that referenced the "incomparable splendor" of marriage. Then he spoke plainly, saying that "marriage was given to us by God" and that it is a "religious value," not something "for legislatures to tinker around with." He said the current battle is a fight "between democracy and socialism" -- and it's the socialists and atheists who can't accept marriage as a "God-given truth."

Kemberling continued to say that "if we don't stand up now," the socialists will "bully us into silence." He boomed from the podium, "The day will come when they will kill you!"

Afterward, Kemberling declined to speak with Westword to clarify his comments.

The crowd applauded when Pastor Ron Brenning of Grace Chapel in Englewood gave a shout-out to North Carolina, which recently voted to ban gay marriage. Brenning pointed to several kids from Saint Thomas More Catholic School, who stood on the steps in their matching plaid skirts and white polo shirts, holding signs that said, "Protect Marriage." "These little ones over here," Brenning said, "this is our motivation!"

The last pastor to speak was Del Phillips of The House of Worship Center in Denver. Gender is not a choice, Phillips said; "We need to accept the design that God has given us." To illustrate his point, he told a story about an ashtray he made out of clay when he was a child. His ashtray didn't look very traditional, but his mother put it on the living room table anyway, where it sat idle because no one in his house smoked. His point was that the creator decides what the thing he creates should be. In the case of his ashtray, the creator was himself, and he refused to allow his mother to use his creation to hold coins or trinkets. When it comes to gender, he said, the creator is God.

Dan Caplis, the ultra-conservative lawyer and KHOW talk-show host, emceed the event. He ended it by asking the crowd to stand up for the people who stood up for marriage -- presumably at the polls in November. "The fight is on!" Caplis said.

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