DENVER - A last-ditch effort by Colorado's governor to give gay couples in the state rights similar to married couples failed Monday after Republicans rejected the proposal during a special legislative session.
Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper had said the special session was needed to address a "fundamental question of fairness and civil rights."
The bill's demise was expected by Democrats, who have begun using the issue as a rallying cry to topple Republicans in the November elections. Republicans assigned the bill to House State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee, which was likely to reject it. The panel voted 5-4 along party lines to kill the measure.
"The gay community is being used as a political pawn," said Republican Rep. Don Coram, whose son is gay. Coram voted against the measure.
Rep. Mark Ferrandino, the Democrats' leader in the House and gay lawmaker co-sponsoring civil unions, sounded a note of optimism before the committee hearing, even as he braced for the bill's rejection.
"If it fails this year, we're going to work hard to make sure the public understands what happened, the games that were played, and next we're going to push it again," he said. "And as I've said a number of times, it's not a matter of `if,' it's a matter of `when.' And the 'when' keeps getting sooner and sooner. This will happen."
House Republicans hold a 33-32 voting advantage, but there was enough support for civil unions to pass.
Last week, Democrats tried to force Republicans who control the calendar to bring up the bill for debate. But it became clear Republicans were filibustering by unnecessarily talking at length about other bills.
Republicans then halted work for hours, killing the bill and several others that needed a vote before a key deadline. ntal and inheritance rights.