Friday, January 25, 2013

GOP rallies against civil unions bill

The west side of the Capitol was a protest site Friday, with opponents of SB 11 - the proposed civil unions legislation - rallying against the measure.

Speakers included former House speaker Frank McNulty, R-Highlands Ranch, and former House majority leader Amy Stephens, R-Monument.

Stephens complimented the bill's lead sponsor, Sen. Pat Steadman, D-Denver, but nevertheless urged its rejection, while McNulty argued that repeating the choice made last year to prevent it from becoming law would reflect "courage."

Former Sen. Ed Jones, R-Colorado Springs, used his opportunity at the microphone to engage in some rather distasteful criticism of House speaker Mark Ferrandino, D-Denver. Jones said Ferrandino had a "wife" named "Eric," neither of which is an accurate statement.

He also misleadingly argued that people who are gay can choose not to be and insisted that this rendered null arguments for improved civil rights protection.

“I never saw a water fountain that said 'gays only,'” Jones said.

While the tools used to ostracize gay men and women in the Jim Crow south, and elsewhere in the nation, may have been different from the methods of enforcing segregation of the races, the available scientific research shows that, in fact, homosexuality is possibly an immutable characteristic of an individual.

According to a website maintained by Catholic News Agency, a high-ranking representative of the Roman Catholic Church's Denver archdiocese complained that the bill would infringe on Catholics' religious freedom by interfering in the practices of Catholic adoption agencies.

"We have been involved in the state of Colorado for over 80 years in helping to take care of the children of our community and make sure they are placed in adoption and foster care in good, healthy, wholesome settings, for the good of our society,” writer Kevin J. Jones quoted Monsignor Thomas Fryar, the Denver archdiocese's second-highest ranking official, as saying to the crowd.

The version of the proposed legislation considered in 2012, and killed by the Republican-ruled House of Representatives in office at the time, would have exempted Catholic adoption agencies from its reach. The state's Catholic dioceses nevertheless opposed the bill.

The Catholic hierarchy, as well as leaders of a variety of other socially conservative faith traditions, oppose recognition of civil unions because they view the step as providing a social sanction to same-sex relationships and as a threat to traditional marriage.

Colorado voters forbade any changes to the traditional view of marriage as involving only men and women when they approved Amendment 43 to the state constitution in 2006. A statute cannot override or contradict a constitutional provision.

Denver Post reporter Lynn Bartels wrote Friday that Jones was among several speakers who urged Gov. John Hickenlooper to veto the measure if it reaches his desk.

That result is not likely. Hickenlooper has said he will sign the bill.

Friday's rally was organized by the Denver Catholic archiocese.

Levy: Republican bill attacking science education won't get out of committee

A GOP bill that would open the door to discussion of religious ideas about biodiversity and the origin of mankind in science classrooms, and which could sanction denial of the scientific consensus that human activities are changing Earth's climate, is likely to die in committee.

That's the prediction of Boulder Democratic Rep. Claire Levy, a veteran legislator who serves as speaker pro tempore of the House of Representatives.

Levy made the comment during a Friday interview by radio talk show host Geoff Berg. Berg asked her whether HB 13-1089 would progress in the chamber.

Levy's bluntly said it would not:
The bill looks innocuous enough when you read it…but when you look beneath the surface it’s pretty obvious it’s…allowing science teachers to teach creationism and deny global warming. Democrats are about teaching real science and giving students a good education. So I don’t think it’ll make it out of committee.
Her comments can be heard at about the 19:30 mark of the recording. 

HB 13-1089 is scheduled to be heard by the House Education Committee on Monday, Feb. 4.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

GOP "right to work" bill rejected by Senate committee

A bill that would have made Colorado a "right to work" state did not move out of a Senate committee Thursday.

SB 24, sponsored by freshman Sen. Owen Hill, R-Colorado Springs, would have prohibited employment contracts requiring union membership or payment of union dues.

The bill died in the Committee on Business, Labor, & Technology. Democrats Rollie Heath of Boulder, Cheri Jahn of Golden, and Lois Tochtrop of Thornton provided the votes to kill it, while Republicans Randy Baumgardner of Hot Sulphur Springs and David Balmer of Centennial supported it.

Civil unions bill heads to Senate Appropriations Committee

A bill that would authorize some legal recognition of same-sex relationships cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee this evening.

The proposed civil unions bill was approved on a 3-2 vote. The majority Democrats voted "aye," while both Republicans on the panel voted "no."

Testimony was emotional, with Denver Democrat Lucia Guzman pointing out that the measure may give people who have felt the need to hide their sexual preference the courage to be open about it.

"There are those here today who spent years hiding, hiding the truth from their parents, friends, bosses, even hiding from themselves," she said.

Representatives of social conservative groups objected to the bill, as they did when a similar measure was considered in 2011 and 2012.

This year's bill is somewhat wider in scope than the version that would have made it to Gov. John Hickenlooper's desk last year if the then-majority Republicans in the House of Representatives had not killed it with a parliamentary maneuver.

In the 2012 version charities affiliated with the Catholic church would have been exempt from a provision that forbids discrimination against gay people who wish to adopt a child. This year, sponsoring Sen. Pat Steadman, D-Denver, did not include that language.

Among the witnesses testifying in support of the bill were Denver mayor Michael Hancock.

Hickenlooper has indicated that he will sign SB 11. A tweet in his name that was posted Wednesday reiterated that promise.

The bill will next be considered by the Senate Appropriations Committee.