BREAKING: Last-Minute Plea For Civil Unions Shenanigans

UPDATE 9:35PM: With a politically huge “yes” vote from GOP Rep. B.J. Nikkel, Senate Bill 2 passes House Judiciary and heads for the House Finance Committee.


UPDATE: Lynn Bartels of the Denver paper reports that Speaker Frank McNulty will not remove Rep. B.J. Nikkel from her post on the House Judiciary Committee ahead of today’s hearing. Rep. Nikkel describes Sen. Kevin Lundberg’s email (below) as “rash,” and disputes Lundberg’s claim that she had ever committed to vote against Senate Bill 2.


A “legislative report” email sent late last night from Sen. Kevin Lundberg could become an explosive liability for himself, and House Speaker Frank McNulty. The subject is Senate Bill 2, the civil unions bill set for the House Judiciary Committee this afternoon:

SB-2 would redefine what marriage and the family looks like in Colorado law by creating a whole new category of “civil union partner” everywhere a married spouse is mentioned in the statutes. As I reported in last week’s Update, SB-2 passed the Senate. Today, May 2, the Civil Union debate ramped up to a new level. The bill is scheduled to be heard in the House Judiciary Committee tomorrow, Thursday, at 1:30 PM.

Many were assured that all the Republicans were committed to vote ‘no’ on the bill, but today we learned that one has changed her mind, [Pols emphasis] and now she will not commit one way or the other. This has created a great deal of concern, as the bill is almost certain to pass all other committees, the House floor, and the governor has said he will sign it.

The legal practice of Civil Unions in Colorado now hangs on the vote of one Republican lawmaker, Rep. BJ Nikkel, and the Speaker of the House who could replace her on the committee, if he decided to do so. [Pols emphasis] I expect many citizens will be weighing in on this with both the Speaker and Rep. Nikkel.

It’s important to understand everything that Lundberg is saying and asking for here. First of all, he is admitting that there is bipartisan support for passage of SB-2, and that it will likely pass in a Republican-controlled House if it reaches the full chamber. To prevent this, Lundberg is essentially asking his supporters to lobby Speaker McNulty to remove a fellow Republican from the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. B.J. Nikkel, ahead of today’s hearing.

We’d say Lundberg’s too-public call to take this action ought to ensure it doesn’t happen. Because if it does now, everyone is going to know why, and McNulty’s promises to give SB-2 a fair hearing will be revealed as treachery. So this really wasn’t very smart of Lundberg.

But above all, folks, such irresponsible desperation from social conservatives like Kevin Lundberg shows how close civil unions truly are to becoming the law in Colorado.


39 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. Few moments in history give legislators the opportunity to truly break down the gates of oppression – gates that not only disenfranchise people on the basis of elements that they can’t control, but more so, gates that go against every grain of  liberty.

    People run for office to be able to say that they played a pivotal part – in a pivotal time – on a pivotal issue.

    Whether it was Lyndon Johnson on Civil Rights, Ronald Reagan on Amnesty, Abraham Lincoln on the Emancipation Proclamation, Lucy Stone on Women’s Suffrage, Governor Ralph Carr on American-Japanese internment, Andrew Cuomo on Gay Marriage… and perhaps, even, BJ Nikkel on Civil Unions in Colorado?

    Today, Representative Nikkel, you have a “rendezvous” with history…

    (do the right thing – we’ll be behind you)

  2. bullshit!bullshit! says:

    The haters are afraid.

    Let your hope grow with their fear!

  3. DavidThi808DavidThi808 says:

    OMG – A majority of legislators and a majority of voters want to do the right thing. How can we subvert Democracy to stop them?

  4. Look, we all know which side history is on. Civil rights movements eventually win in America. 10 years from now, we’ll look at the heroes of these first civil unions and marriage bills the same way that we look at the heroes of the original civil rights movement today. Just as many of the individuals at the forefront of the fight for civil rights for racial minorities eventually made it to Congress or the Senate, the state representatives who did the right thing despite enormous pressure will make it to higher office.

    Nikkel should be dancing in her office now, if she has any higher political ambitions. Lundberg just wrote her first congressional campaign commercial for her. Stand up on this one, with clear and WRITTEN proof that her own party tried to torpedo her committee membership because she wouldn’t fall into lockstep and vote the wrong way on civil rights, and she’s got a tailor-made, archetypal “independent Western Republican” moment all sewn up.

    Hell, even if McNulty dumps her from the committee, with this clear evidence as to WHY he’s doing that, she’s got a damn good case for herself that way, too.

    And if she does the right thing on this and reaps the benefits, that’s one time I won’t be sorry to see a Republican succeed. I wish Representative Nikkel all the success in the world, after she casts just this one vote. She clearly knows what the right thing to do is–all she has to do is do it, and she’s got a hell of a legacy in the house and a good foundation on which to move forward.

  5. abraham says:

    OK, I know that it is critical that you take shots at McNulty with every breath, but honestly I have not seen him do anything inappropriate on this bill.  He assigned it to House Judiciary, which is an appropriate committee.   Had he assigned it to House State Affairs, it would have been a signal.

    He replaced Rep Barker with Rep Baumgardner because Barker had a stroke and is excused.  McNulty told the Denver Post he was inclned to replace Barker with someone of similar beliefs about the bill.  He did that and it has a neutral effect on the likely vote count.

    The Nikkel issue is really fascinating.  If Lundberg is right, then the votes are there to pass the bill out of committee.  If he is not, then it might not pass.  If McNulty wanted to spike the bill, he could simply replace Nikkel with a Republican who is opposed to the bill.  But he has not done that.

    There are lots of things McNulty can be faulted for, but it would be more helpful if you focused on those rather than just making stuff up.

    • I read this as Lundberg going off the deep end and asking McNulty to save him from Teh Gayz.

      If McNulty goes along to block the vote, Democrats get a gift at the expense of The Right Thing To Do, but I at least am not trying to read anything more into it.

    • and Lundberg is pressuring him to do it wrong.

      Seems to me that’s how the story portrays it, too.

    • gaf says:

      The post is about Lundberg’s letter, and it is not an attack on McNulty. Yes, it notes the pressure this puts on MuNulty.

      If McNulty wanted to spike the bill, he could simply replace Nikkel with a Republican who is opposed to the bill.

      A simple observation that was made in the diary.

      But he has not done that.

      Not yet. If he doesn’t, he will not be attacked for doing it. If he does, he will justifiably be attacked. The diary was not a preemptive hit on McNulty, just a logical observation of the situation in which Lundberg had placed MuNulty. I think it is you who does not track the report.

  6. MADCO says:

    Gambling in a casino?  What’s next – rich guys paying less tax.

  7. rocco says:

    Or does it seem Nikkel’s “clarification” via the Post is damage control, with the underlying theme that “they” got to her and told to to get back in line?

    Regardless of what I think, by the time they go home tonight, we’ll have our answer………vote wise.

    So many things are front and center now. This decade could be “the new ’60’s”, and a heretofore nondescript lawmaker from Larimer County stands on the precipice of history. Civil Unions aren’t to be confused with full marraige rights, but SB2 is a huge leap forward.

    I guess nobody knows the pressure this woman feels, bullied by the Lundberg thugs, left on a ledge by McNulty, without a net, and pulled toward the light by a constituency that, in large part, didn’t vote for her.

    In the end, if half the people will be mad at you no matter what you do, my thought is you should do what you think is right.

    We’ll see.


  8. DavidThi808DavidThi808 says:

    They had the same thing – major opposition from the right (including may Democratic legislators). Lots of intensity, lots of concern over getting voted out for passing Civil Unions.

    But… after the vote everything quieted down and there was no impact on anyone. I think we’ve hit the point that once it passes a small group will continue hating but most that oppose it will drop it as an issue.

    • droll says:

      I believe that when CO does get either marriage or civil unions it will be supported by a number of Republicans that will surprise us all.

      This isn’t that year. While the average GOP representative would not lose their job in November, some GOP leadership will lose their job well before that. McNulty, the politically clumsy, must see the majority writing on the wall, it’s incredibly unlikely that the House won’t flip back. He has to save his crew.

      In other words, your “small group” is about to vote on Stephens and it’s a big deal. Committee is the only way to keep cu off Stephen’s watch. I predicted a few days ago that if SB2 did make it out of Judiciary, McNulty will assign it to another committee before sending it to the CoW. Sounds like Nikkel is back in line and that won’t be necessary.

      Sad, but this is the body politic we are currently existing in.

      • rocco says:

        I fear you’re not.

      • DavidThi808DavidThi808 says:

        B.J. Nikkel at the end of the day will vote as B.J. Nikkel decides to vote. She may decide this issue is more important than political calculation (that’s what my mom decided). She may decide that while this may not be in the best interests of McNulty or the GOP (this week), it is in the best long term political interests of B.J. Nikkel.

        But at the end of the day it is her vote to cast.

      • DavidThi808DavidThi808 says:

        I have one a-political employee down at the capitol right now and two other a-political employees who ask me hourly if the vote has occurred yet. None of them can name their own state rep or senator. I doubt all three could name Hickenlooper.

        But all three know B.J.’s name. If she ever decides to run statewide, that’s gigantic (if she votes yes).

  9. LakewoodTodd says:

    Does anyone have any solid info about whether the bill will be referred to any other committees if it passes tonight? That is my greatest concern. It gets past Judiciary but then gets sent on to some other kill bill committee that is more reliable for the opponents. I seem to recall that is what happened last session.

    I think another question for chat fodder is Do the Republicans think the passage of this bill might be a political win for them in 2012. That is, do they think that, if they “let” this bill get through, will that rally the conservative base in November?

    • droll says:

      There was not a second committee.

      I wrote somewhere else that I thought the second committee is entirely possibly, but it should be pointed out that it will be a hard thing to find a committee without a single vote. So in order to kill it the committee would have to be shuffled. Not that that would ever happen, right? Right?

      I also wrote why I thought the vote would be problematic for primary opponents. I’m not a conservative, but feel relatively safe writing that when it comes down to it the conservative base is coming out to vote against Obama (possibly personhood as well) and they aren’t voting for the Democrat because they are mad at the Republican in their House. I suppose they could under vote, I doubt it though.

    • RedGreenRedGreen says:

      looks like it would also have to pass Finance and then Appropriations before CoW.  

      • LakewoodTodd says:

        Is there a switch voter on Finance? Chair DelGrosso? Vice Chair Swerdfeger? (He’s qouted in the Chieftain with a luke warm openness to the bill.) Conti – economic conservative but socially flexible? Acree? Any of them effected by new legislative districts?

        Appropriations? Is Gerou as socially liberal as Witwer was? I notice that she is a member of a UCC church that seems to be on the conservative edge of that denomination. (You don’t find anything about UCC on the church’s webpage.) And Looper is on that committee. As well as DelGrosso. Does the presence of Ferrandino and Kerr (who has been a strong advocate long before he faced a possible primary this fall) carry any weight with their Republican peers? Or does Appropriations generally pass bills as long as they can be paid for regardless of the social debate going on? (Perhaps same for Finance?)

        Does the sheer number of possible Republicans who might switch their previous opposition on either of these committees make these committees less threatening to the bill than Judiciary was?

  10. droll says:

    Good for you, Rep. Nikkel!

  11. Aaron says:

    Good for her… Now lets hope McNulty doesn’t find a different way to kill it.

  12. Couldn’t be more delighted to see a Republican find the courage to vote her conscience despite the pressure she had to be under. Congratulations!

  13. themonk77 says:

    I’m actually a little emotional after hearing the vote.

  14. Gilpin Guy says:

    From Laura Bradford to B.J. Nikkel

    What a contrast in courage and personal accountability.

  15. DavidThi808DavidThi808 says:

    Major major kudos to B.J. Nikkel. I hope she’s the future face of the Republican party here in Colorado.

  16. DavidThi808DavidThi808 says:

    Everyone, please send a short thank you to

    • droll says:

      I told her you told me to. Hope it still counts.

      It’s past my bedtime; goodnight.

    • Mr. Toodles says:

      People could also email Sen. Steadman and Rep Ferrandino for reintroducing the bill, all of the Dem Senators and the 3 Republican senators who voted for it in the Senate, and the 5 dems that voted for it on the Judiciary committee.

      I’m glad that Rep. Nikkel finally realized this  is the right thing to do, but there have been plenty of people that have voted for civil unions (twice!) and have supported equal rights, yet they get ignored in all of this.

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