Friday, April 18, 2008

Senate Gives Preliminary Nod to Expansion of Sexual Preference Discrimination Ban

The Senate, after a heated and emotional argument over a Republican attempt to equate discrimination against short people with discrimination against gay men and women, gave preliminary approval this morning to a measure that would expand the scope of the state's ban on sexual preference discrimination.

Sen. Greg Brophy, R-Wray, introduced an amendment aimed at preventing private sector discrimination on the basis of height, which provoked a tempestuous, and at times heated, exchange. Brophy argued that gay people don't face different treatment in any area of public life.

“What I’m talking about is economic discrimination, political discrimination, employment discrimination,” Brophy said. “I find no pattern of any of those.”

That statement prompted strong responses from several Senate Democrats.

“It must be nice, as a white male, to sit back and mock the real discrimination that occurs in our society, especially on the basis of sexual orientation,” Sen. Jennifer Veiga, D-Denver, said.

And Sen. Abel Tapia, D-Pueblo, recounted how his son, who is gay, felt compelled to leave Colorado to practice law because he did not believe he would have a fair chance to succeed in this state.

Senate president Peter Groff of Denver also indicated that he was displeased by Brophy's comments.

“Discrimination is a practice that has gone on in this country too long,” Groff said. “It is the birth defect of this country. And I think it’s time we deal with that.”

SB 200 would expand the reach of existing state law preventing discrimination on the basis of race and gender, among other demographic characteristics, in a wide variety of areas, including in housing, places of public accommodation, consumer credit, labor unions and school enrollment, to cover sexual preference.

Last year the General Assembly enacted, and Gov. Bill Ritter signed, a measure that prohibits private employers from making job-related decisions on the basis of a person's sexual preference.

The bill faces a final vote in the Senate before moving on to the House.

Brophy withdrew his amendment before the second reading voice vote took place this morning.