Civil unions passes panels
By Denver Catholic Register
Advocates and opponents of a state civil union bill testified last week during a hearing at the Capitol before the legislation squeaked through a Republican-controlled House committee May 3 by a 6-5 vote.
Opponents of the bill outlined the Church’s arguments for upholding the traditional definition of marriage, which is rooted in natural law.
They explained that marriage is a defined reality, not subject to change. Some opponents also confirmed the Church’s love for same-sex couples, which is rooted in basic human dignity, while working to protect the dignity of marriage as well.
Father Bill Carmody of St. Dominic Parish in Colorado Springs said civil unions violate the nature of sexuality and its unitive and procreative purposes.
“Marriage is the cornerstone of our society,” Father Carmody testified. “It is not simply a religious issue; it is a matter of common sense and long tradition that predates the Christian faith. Any attempt to redefine marriage, which civil unions would do, should be vigorously challenged.”
Father Carmody’s testimony was based on paragraph 2358 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which states that “The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.”
Proponents of the bill also made faith-based arguments. Some testified that faith-filled individuals no longer look to the Old Testament for moral guidance and that commitments between same-sex couples should be supported.
“Christians certainly look to the New Testament for guidance not the 3,000-year-old world code found in Leviticus,” said Mario Nicolais, spokesman for Coloradans for Freedom, who quoted the book of John during testimony for the bill. “We should support love. …The final commandment of Christ was to love one another. There was no exception from it. It wasn’t ‘love one another except for the gay people.’”
A vote in the House Judiciary Committee followed more than three hours of testimony when committee members weighed the bill, a similar version of which was defeated last year. Rep. B.J. Nikkel, R-Loveland, saying she first wanted to hear testimony, switched party line when she changed her vote at the hearing.
“This isn’t necessarily an issue I’m passionate about, I just feel it’s the right thing to do,” Nikkel said. “I decided that it was worth pushing the bill forward so it could be heard by all of my colleagues who represent all of Colorado.”
Among other opponents of the bill was a senator, a former gay man, a reverend and an attorney from the Alliance Defense Fund.
Advocates speaking on behalf of the bill included a spokesman for Gov. John Hickenlooper, a few Republicans, parents of gay children and a gay couple.
The bill later passed the House Finance Committee May 4 by a 7-6 vote and was heard by the Appropriations Committee May 7. Tight deadlines made some of the proponents at the hearing nervous that it wouldn’t be heard in the House before the end of the session.
Civil union legislation, according to the Colorado Catholic Conference—the lobbying arm of the Catholic Church in the state—contradicts the will of Coloradans who voted in 2006 against Referendum I, an equivalent measure to civil unions, and passed Amendment 43, which defined marriage as between one man and one woman.
The progress of the bill was a surprise, said Jenny Kraska, director of the conference, who said the Finance Committee had previously voted down a similar bill.
“It was very unexpected,” she said. “If ever there was a time to be active in politics in any way, shape or form, if you care about marriage, now is the time.”
Kraska said people against the bill should contact their representatives urging them to protect marriage whether the bill passes or not.
The bill’s progress was unknown by press deadline May 7. The bill would need a passing vote from the Appropriations Committee and then a second reading before the House floor in order to be voted on today, May 9, the last day of the legislative session.