Lakewood, COLO.—The gay marriage law that passed in New York late Friday night has its origins in Colorado politics—and Centennial State political implications for 2012. Colorado software entrepreneur and gay rights activist Tim Gill’s team was a major player in the effort, an effort that should continue in Colorado next year on both the state legislative and electoral fronts.
While the New York state Senate became the first-ever Republican-led state legislative body to recognize same-sex relationships, Colorado Republican leadership killed a Gill-backed civil unions bill on a party-line vote in a House committee this year.
Both the state House and Senate sponsors have said they will re-introduce the legislation, and as Senate sponsor state Sen. Pat Steadman, a Democrat from Denver, tells me, “[Republicans’] moves next year will be very interesting to watch. We're at that point in the chess game when each little move becomes make or break. The end game is in sight.”
I asked Steadman why New York Republicans succeeded where Colorado Republicans did not, and his answer was simple. “New York Republican leadership is much smarter than we have here.” House sponsor state Rep. Mark Ferrandino, also a Democrat from Denver, was equally pointed.
“In New York, their leadership is willing to stand up against fringe,” he said. “In Colorado, it's a small minority in their party that they're listening to, and they weren't willing to stand up to them last session.” [Check out a roundup of GOP political cartoons.]
The day after the bill died, Gill wrote in the Denver Post:
Unfortunately, the same old divisive politics that brought me into the political sphere 17 years ago reared its ugly head again this past week. The leadership of the Colorado House suffers from a complete lack of vision. ... This legislature will have another chance in the next year to right this wrong for all those who choose to live, work, and raise a family in our great state. I sincerely hope to see civil unions debated on the House floor. And if not, we will have an opportunity to change the legislature, because in the end, Colorado deserves better.
And Steadman and Ferrandino agree that there will be political fallout if Republicans dismiss a civil unions bill in the 2012 legislature. “I definitely think there are political implications; just look at polling data,” Ferrandino says. “So many people support civil unions that it shows their leadership is not in touch with mainstream Colorado voters.”
Steadman is equally blunt. “I think it should be readily apparent. How much more out of step could they be?”
As he’s proven in Colorado and New York, Gill’s philosophy is that political money is most efficiently and effectively spent at the state level. A 2007 profile in the Atlantic noted, “Gill and Trimpa decided to eschew national races in favor of state and local ones, which could be influenced in large batches and for much less money. Most antigay measures, they discovered, originate in state legislatures.”
Or in Colorado’s case, a pro-gay rights civil unions bill that could pose serious problems for Republicans in 2012.