Mon November 12, 2012

Civil Unions Have Impact On Statehouse Races

Civil unions supporters in Colorado won big during last week’s election – successfully targeting and ousting three Republican lawmakers over their opposition to civil unions. And many in the GOP feel the issue contributed to their losses.

KUNC's State Capitol Reporter Bente Birkeland reports on the impact of Civil Unions on statehouse races.

Representative Cindy Acree (R-Aurora) is one of those lawmakers. Many factors contributed to her loss last week, including a more heavily Democratic district, but she says her views and vote against civil unions did play a role.

“I stand by my vote. I voted my district and at the time, my district was very conservative.”

The gay rights group Fight Back Colorado poured about $200 thousand into defeating Acree in her race and two other close house races.

“Our mission was pretty single focused and we were really successful,” says group leader Roger Sherman.

“This is something we’ve worked really hard on. We had a great base of support here and we also had people that were concerned from around the country that helped.”

A Civil unions measure had enough votes to pass the Republican controlled house during the last legislative session but GOP leaders filibustered and ultimately killed the bill.

Republican Mario Nicolais is with the group Coloradan’s For Freedom. He says Republican House leaders made a mistake.

“A lot of activists became very energized and so they were very motivated.”

Nicolais says the failure of civil unions also shows the shortcoming of some members of his party.

“It needs to be a more caring party. It needs to be a party that is more willing to accept and understand truly human issues. Republicans are very good at logic and number crunching. But they need to humanize themselves. This was one of those areas they could do that.”

Representative J. Paul Brown (R-Ignacio) narrowly lost his House seat in last week’s election. Brown says he had no idea he was targeted for his stance against civil unions.

“I really didn’t know that money was in the race until maybe a week before the election, and maybe even less than that.”

Now that Democrats control both legislative chambers they say they plan to pass civil unions in 2013.

“I think we’re seeing a huge shift in this country on LGBT issues,” says Mark Ferrandino (D-Denver). He sponsored the civil unions measure during the last session.

“And Colorado showed last session that the leadership of the house was not with the times. The majority of the house was with the times and this coming year we’ll be able to show that Colorado is the state that’s about equality, not the hate state."

The November election also doubled the number of openly gay lawmakers serving at the state house with Ferrandino serving as the state’s first openly gay Speaker of the House.