DENVER - Opponents of same-sex unions rallied at the Colorado Capitol on Tuesday as tensions remained high one day after state House Republicans rejected a proposal to provide gay couples rights similar to marriage.
Dozens of people saying they support traditional marriage cheered Republican lawmakers and thanked State House Speaker Frank McNulty, crediting him for the defeat of the heavily debated civil-union legislation.
Gay-rights advocates also maintained a presence at the Capitol, as a man with a horn loudly heckled McNulty as he addressed the crowd.
McNulty spoke through the noise, urging Republicans to spread the message that his party will protect traditional marriage.
It is becoming clear that both parties in the state plan to campaign on the issue of civil unions vs. traditional marriage in November. Fund-raising e-mails have gone out with each party seeking support based on its stance regarding the failed civil-union bill.
"It does not end here today," McNulty said. "Go back to your communities, go back to your neighborhoods, go back to your churches and let them know that the fight continues, that we're engaged in this fight and that we will continue it today, through the next legislative session, and every time that marriage is attacked."
Democrats blasted McNulty for the demise of the civil-union proposal, which failed on a 5-4 party-line vote in a Republican House committee on the first day of a special session called by Gov. John Hickenlooper in an attempt to save the legislation. The Democratic governor has said keeping lawmakers at the Capitol was necessary to address a "fundamental question of fairness and civil rights" on whether gay couples deserve rights similar to married couples.
A civil-union bill introduced during the regular session passed the Democratic-led Senate, before clearing three GOP-controlled committees in the House. There was enough support to get the bill to the governor's desk, but Republicans filibustered to prevent the legislation from coming to a vote, killing it and several others because they missed a key deadline last week.
Rep. Mark Ferrandino, the Democrats' leader in the House and a gay lawmaker who cosponsored the civil-union bill, tweeted a picture of a rainbow-colored sign that read "Equal Rights." It was jammed into a trash bin outside the Capitol, and Ferrandino said that's what McNulty "did to equal rights."
McNulty and Ferrandino have said they're good friends, but Ferrandino said their relationship had become strained recently.
Democrats have sent several fund-raising e-mails over the last week, blaming Republicans for stopping civil unions and telling supporters they need to control the legislature to pass the bill.
Republicans control the House by 33-32. The GOP campaign message is telling supporters that Republicans need more legislative control to protect conservative values.