The evangelical Christian ministry Focus on the Family says it will try to put a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage in Colorado on the ballot in 2006. Plans are still in the early stages and other organizers have yet to be recruited, spokesman Paul Hetrick told The Denver Post on Thursday. The ministry, based in Colorado Springs, will not lead the effort but will rather participate in a broad coalition.
Last November, 11 states amended their constitutions to ban same-sex marriage. Focus on the Family is supporting similar measures in about 15 other states over the next two years, said Tom Minnery, the group's vice president of public policy.
Minnery said a ballot initiative in Colorado makes sense because Democrats won control of both chambers of the legislature for the first time in more than 40 years last fall. In 2000, lawmakers and Gov. Bill Owens approved a "defense of marriage" act restricting marriage to one man and one woman. Minnery said a constitutional amendment is needed because the statute could be easily overturned in court or by the legislature. "We've found it's a better thing to get it written into the constitution," Minnery said.
Gay rights advocates said they can make a strong case that the measure isn't needed and is really a ploy to mobilize conservative voters for wider purposes, said Michael Brewer, public policy director of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Community Center of Colorado.
Julie Tolleson, spokeswoman for Equal Rights Colorado, a gay and lesbian lobbying group, called the proposed amendment partisan politics. "In a time with all of these important policy issues, people just can't get gays and lesbians off their minds," she said. "Or they realize more political hay can be made of this. It saddens me to think of another hateful and divisive ballot fight."
Amendment 2, which would have banned laws protecting gays from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, was approved by voters in 1992 and overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1996. During the fight, Colorado was labeled a "hate state" and hit with tourism boycotts.
The Reverend Ted Haggard, pastor of the 11,000-member New Life Church in Colorado Springs, said he believes that marriage as a union between a man and woman is rooted in centuries of tradition. He said research proves it is also the family unit for children to be raised in. "This would not undermine anyone's civil liberties," said Haggard, who also is president of the National Association of Evangelicals.
Some states simply ban gay marriage, though some are considering going further. In April, Kansas voters will consider an amendment that would ban not only same-sex marriage but civil unions and domestic partnerships as well. (AP)