By Peter Marcus, DENVER DAILY NEWS
Colorado voters this year may see another attempt to offer gay couples similar rights afforded to married couples.
Proponents have begun pushing a marriage equality initiative that would give same-sex couples equal legal rights as married couples, including issues concerning property rights, health care decisions and tax benefits, to name a few. The initiative would allow gay couples to form a domestic partnership.
A similar initiative, Referendum I, failed in 2006, with 53 percent of voters rejecting the question. But proponents of this latest push believe the political climate in Colorado has shifted, offering them a better chance at convincing voters that now is the time for marriage equality.
“The LGBT community kind of underestimated the opposition’s political power (in 2006), and I think since then Colorado has become a lot more liberal on gay issues,” Joseph Soto, the initiative’s lead proponent, said of the change in the political climate over the past four years. “We’re one of the few states that has hate crime protections, job place discrimination protection, protection from housing discrimination … so I think that Coloradans will vote to approve marriage equality because in the past four years, I think the Legislature, as well as different organizations, have capitalized on the need for civil rights.”
A second review and comment hearing for the proposed initiative has been set for Jan. 11. Assuming there are no issues, proponents would then be free to submit the proposed initiative to the Secretary of State’s office. They hope to begin collecting signatures in the next few months.
Critics argue that marriage equality initiatives are an attack on the institution of marriage. State Sen. Kevin Lundberg, R-Berthoud, lead the fight against Referendum I in 2006 when he was a state representative. He said at the time that marriage equality initiatives undermine the traditional values imposed by a marriage between a man and a woman.
He has told the Denver Daily News on several occasions that such initiatives “radically change the practice of family.”
Lundberg points out that same-sex couples are already given some protections and benefits, including the right to make some medical decisions and to jointly hold and inherit property. He has gone on record saying domestic partnership laws create an ambiguity in defining tradition.
“This is a change in how the government views family and it ultimately changes our culture,” said Lundberg.
For Soto, however, the issue is about civil rights. He said he is motivated by both personal and professional reasons.
“It’s a tenet of civil rights for LGBT people in Colorado,” he said. “So, it’s important because I just feel like Colorado is up to the task of granting civil rights to LGBT Coloradans.”
Distributed by Colorado Capitol Reporters