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Colo. House speaker: Equality can't be addressed during economic crisis

Mark Ferrandino, the state representative who was the sponsor of a civil unions bill defeated Monday in Colorado, joined PoliticsNation Tuesday to criticize Republican House Speaker Frank McNulty for assigning the measure to a “kill” committee where he knew the bill lacked the support to advance.

In a move described by Rev. Al Sharpton as "anti-democratic" and Rachel Maddow as "amazing gymnastic legislative maneuvering," it was the second time in a week that Republican lawmakers in the state's House of Representatives blocked an up-or-down vote on the issue. The Colorado bill had cleared the state Senate and appeared headed for possible passage in the House, but Republican leaders kept it from reaching the floor for a final vote.

The measure would have allowed same-sex domestic partners to make end-of-life medical decisions for one another and become eligible for certain insurance and retirement benefits.’s David Sirota joined Ferrandino on the broadcast to outline the arguments used against the bill.

Alliance Defense Fund general counsel Brian Raum argued that a vote for the civil unions bill was the same as a vote for same-sex marriage. “They take it, and extrapolate to fire up their base. That’s what it’s all about, base politics,” says Sirota.

Speaker McNulty even argued that the legislature couldn’t address “equality issues” given the current economy, and that lawmakers "need to focus" on the unemployment crisis.

“What’s strange is why should the economic crisis make us unable to extend equal rights to all Americans?” asked Sirota.

Part of the collateral damage were 30 other bills that the House also killed, bills that would have otherwise passed, including one that would have funded $55 million in water infrastructure projects, and another that would have stabilized unemployment insurance rates for small businesses.

Update: Rachel Maddow points out, "Even as public opinion in the United States has become more friendly toward gay rights, Republican policy is still really anti-gay." She adds that Colorado Republicans' position is also the GOP frontrunner Mitt Romney's position: that gay people should have no marriage or civil union rights.

Tim Gaynor of Reuters contributed to this report.