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Civil Unions Measure Faces Likely Defeat At State Capitol

DENVER (AP) - Colorado's civil unions measure appeared headed for certain defeat Monday, as Republicans and Democrats spent the first day of a special legislative session pointing fingers over the proposal to give same-sex couples the rights of married couples.

Republican House Speaker Frank McNulty blasted the civil unions measure as a divisive waste of time and assigned the proposal to a committee likely to reject it.

Democrats, meanwhile, blamed McNulty for keeping the bill from seeing a debate in the full House, where it would pass.

McNulty accused Gov. John Hickenlooper of trying to push a "divisive" measure at taxpayer expense by calling the special session. The Democratic governor last week called on lawmakers to reconsider civil unions, which he called a "fundamental question of fairness and civil rights."

Civil unions would grant gay couples rights similar to married couples, including letting partners make medical decisions for each other. The protections also would enhance parental and inheritance rights.

The Democratic Senate has approved civil unions more than once, but Democrats see no point in trying again in that chamber. That means the civil unions measure is unlikely to end up on Hickenlooper's desk this year.

Red-shirted gay-rights activists who thronged the state Capitol vowed to stay through the anticipated vote later Monday. They expected defeat, but as in years past, vowed to keep trying.

"It's going to happen eventually. I mean, there's no way in 10 years we don't have nationwide marriage equality," said activist Wiley Sherer, who was selling buttons that read, "Ignorance is forgivable. Pride in ignorance never is."

More than a dozen states allow either gay marriage or civil unions, including several that passed such laws this year. The debate in Colorado is playing out at a time when President Barack Obama became the first U.S. president to publicly endorse gay marriage, but North Carolina voters approved a constitutional amendment that bars civil unions and defines marriage as solely between a man and a woman.

Even after the civil unions measure is defeated, lawmakers have other tasks to complete before the special session ends, likely Wednesday.

Other bills on the agenda include setting a blood-level standard for what's considered too impaired to drive under the influence of marijuana.

Another bill involves $70 million worth of water projects, some of which are aimed at easing drought concerns. Legislators also will take up an unemployment insurance plan and a referred measure asking voters to repeal three laws deemed unconstitutional, including a 1992 voter-approved measure forbidding cities from passing anti-discrimination laws to protect gay people.

By IVAN MORENO, Associated Press

(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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