A Colorado House committee rejected Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper's proposal for civil unions, which he calls a "fundamental question of fairness and civil rights," in a razor-thin 5-4 vote along party lines during a special legislative session Monday.
The Colorado governor called the special session, saying he wanted to give same-sex couples similar rights to married couples. However, Democrats, who had no expectations the bill would ever pass, wanted to use the issue as a political weapon in their hopes to regain control from the Republicans in November.
Republicans hold a narrow 33-32 majority in the Colorado House of Representatives.
One GOP member who voted against the bill and whose son is homosexual claims Democrats are using the gay community for purely political reasons.
"The gay community is being used as a political pawn," Rep. Don Coram told The Associated Press.
Coram said another reason he could not vote for the bill was because in 2006 Coloradans voted to ban gay marriage.
"What you're asking me to do here is invalidate the vote of six years ago," he said. "For four years we had a Democrat governor, a Democrat House and a Democrat Senate. The issue never came up. It only came up when we got spilt. I think that's wrong."
The vote is yet another setback for gay rights activists who suffered a loss last week when over 60 percent of North Carolina voters approved a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman.
And, according to several black pastors, President Obama has lost support in the black community over last week's announcement that his views on same-sex marriage have "evolved" and he now publicly supports the issue.
Prior to the Colorado House's adjournment of the regular session, Democrats accused Republicans of filibustering the issue by talking about other bills that were not related to civil unions, thus missing a key deadline in order for the bill to be voted on.
Hickenlooper wasted no time in calling for a special session after the regular session adjourned on Wednesday. "Transparency, accountability and the virtues of good government are compromised when the legislative clock is used to avoid consideration of important legislation," the governor wrote in a letter to legislators prior to the special session.
Democratic leaders in the House pledged to bring the issue back next year.
"If it fails this year, we're going to work hard to make sure the public understands what happened, the games that were played, and next we're going to push it again," Rep. Mark Ferrandino, the Democratic leader in the House, told AP.
El Paso County GOP Vice Chairman David Williams called the bill an "end-run around the constitution."
Although a handful of states allow same-sex marriage, last week's North Carolina vote was the 32nd straight time voters have either rejected same-sex marriage or defined marriage as between a man and a woman.