Before voting "no" on the civil unions bill, Rep. Don Coram, R-Montrose, told the room "I am the very proud father of one son, who happens to be gay."
In the days that followed, Rep. Coram and his son have been put under the media's microscope to discuss the bill's death and the fact that it came at the hands of someone who also could have been likely to vote yes.
Dee Coram, Don's son, told 9News that his father told him if the bill made it to the House floor he would vote no, but that he did support the bill moving to the floor.
The bill died on a 5-4 party line vote in a committee widely referred to as House Speaker Frank McNulty's (R-Highlands Ranch) "kill committee."
Over the course of two hours of testimony, Rep. Coram once asked about the word "spouse" in the bill and cited a dictionary that defined the word as a marriage between a man and a woman. Coram later said in an interview with 5280 that he tends to support civil unions but is not in favor of same-sex marriage, which is how he interpreted the bill.
"I wouldn't have had a problem with this, not at all, if this bill didn't use the word 'spouse,'" Rep. Coram told the magazine. "I've asked the questions many times in my district: Do you support civil unions? The answer is yes. Then I ask if they support gay marriage. The answer is overwhelmingly no. This was a same-sex-marriage bill."
Reached by phone, House Minority Leader Mark Ferrandino told The Huffington Post that he considers disagreement over the word "spouse" simply an excuse to not vote for the bill.
"I think it's a false red herring argument. I think if you read the bill and understand what it does, this is just an excuse to not vote for the bill. What we were talking about was not marriage, disagreement over the term 'spouse' was only brought up during the last hearing. Civil unions are a parallel system of rights that are granted to marital couples."
In session, Rep. Coram also said he needed to represent his district and that he was voting no in accordance with Colorado's Amendment 43. The amendment, banning gay marriage in the state, passed with 57 percent of the vote in 2006.
Gay rights activist and Colorado resident Tim Gill poured some $3 million into trying to defeat Amendment 43, and was sitting in the state capitol when the civil unions bill died again this year.
Since 2006, however, evidence suggests minds have changed in Colorado. Public Policy Polling released data in April showing 62 percent of Coloradans would support a civil unions bill and 53 percent would support same-sex marriage.
Dee Coram also said there are "a lot" of constituents from Rep. Coram's area who are gay and helped get him elected, a point which Rep. Coram says he believes is "factually incorrect."
"I was told by my grandfather, there's always a time to lead and there's always a time to follow. He was given a time to lead, and he didn't do it. He could have and should have been the deciding vote," Dee Coram told the Denver Post.
"I've always stayed out of the issues," Dee Coram told Westword. "But once it was brought up in the session by my father, he kind of thrust me into the limelight."
Ferrandino expressed his disappointment with the deliberate death of the bill in an interview with Al Sharpton Tuesday night:
The speaker went to extreme lengths to stop civil unions from becoming law...I would just point out that even in the Republican base at their state assembly, 46 percent of Republicans voted for civil unions, to have that in their platform. So Republicans even support this and we had three courageous Republicans who voted in favor of civil unions. At the end of the day we have an outpouring of people who support this, they are angry about how the process was done. It was undemocratic, it thwarted the will of the majority of the members of the House of Reps and I think they're going to be working hard to make sure there's a different leadership in the House come when we get sworn in next January.
In late April, the Denver Post first reported some drama within the House State Veterans and Military Affairs Committee, the "kill committee" where the civil unions bill ultimately died, over a licensed medical marijuana business bill. Rep. Larry Liston, R-Colorado Springs, was on the committee before being replaced by Rep. John Becker, R-Fort Morgan, reportedly after straying from the House Speaker's wishes.
According to witnesses, the State Affairs committee was overheard being called "the speaker's committee" by Rep. Jim Kerr, the chair of the committee.
From the Denver Post:
Kerr said he told Speaker Frank McNulty, "We have an unpredictable member on the State Affairs committee."
On the day of the civil unions vote, there was still some confusion about whether Liston was still sitting on the committee. The Colorado Springs Pride Center even posted a note urging people to contact him, saying that Liston was a possible swing vote.
Still, Rep. Liston told The Huffington Post that even though he was on the committee as short as two weeks ago, he wouldn't have been it.
"The truth is had I been one the committee I would have been a 'no' vote."
Read the Civil Unions bill:
Colorado Civil Unions Bill (SB2)
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