Colorado house votes for discrimination

BY Advocate.com Editors

March 29 2003 12:00 AM ET

Colorado state representatives have removed a provision protecting gays and lesbians from discrimination by health care workers. State representative Don Lee (R-Jefferson County) took a run-of-the-mill measure dealing with agency regulations and amended it to remove protections for gays under rules set by the Medical Services Board. His proposal was approved by the house Thursday. Lee argued that gays don't have state legal claims against discrimination now and that the rules would create a special protection for them. Senate Bill 88 passed on a 34-29 party-line vote, with a lone Republican, Rep. Gregg Rippy of Glenwood Springs, siding with Democrats.

House minority leader Jennifer Veiga (D-Denver) said Lee's approach will also allow for discrimination against people who are older, believe in a certain religion, belong to an ethnic group, or have a physical disability. "Does it create a special protected class? It absolutely does not," Veiga said. "It provides some assurance to large sections of our society that they will get treatment."

Rep. Shawn Mitchell (R-Broomfield) said that any medical professional who chooses not to treat someone would be disciplined under medical ethics or have a lawsuit slapped against them. "They will be sued for medical incompetence, but not for political incorrectness," Mitchell said.

Several Democrats argued that the rule change would be unconstitutional. In 1996 the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Colorado's Amendment 2, which would have prohibited passage of laws protecting gays and lesbians from discrimination. "We went down this road in Colorado with Amendment 2," said Rep. Alice Madden (D-Boulder). "It wasn't a pretty trip."

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