Stronger and more controversial Colorado civil union bill to be heard Wednesday
January 21st, 2013
Civil unions legislation has been re-introduced in Colorado and passage is near certain. Why you ask? Because the number of bill sponsors constitues a majority of both the House and Senate. That’s 20 sponsors in the Senate (out of 35 seats) and 38 sponsors in the House (out of 65 seats).
In a first for the bill Republican Rep Cheri Gerou all of a sudden grew balls this year and decided to sponsor the bill after declining to last year. Even OutFront Colorado published an article titled “How are we so sure civil unions will pass this year?“
How did we get to this point? Here’s some backstory…
In 2011 and 2012 Colorado had a divided legislature. In 2012 after the bill surprisingly managed to pass intact out of a key Republican controlled committee in a desperate last minute attempt to kill the bill House Speaker Frank McNulty (R-Highlands Ranch) killed 30+ bills on the last night of the session rather than allow the civil union bill to reach the floor.
Democrats swept the November election statewide and retook control of the House along with retaining control of the Senate and Governor’s Residence. Rep Mark Ferrandino was elected by his peers to be the first openly gay Speaker Of The House. Also during the fall recess, tragically, Dave Misner, the husband of Senator Pat Steadman, the bill’s author, died of pancreatic cancer.
But there are other different things this year too.
Previous civil unions legislation had excluded [Catholic] adoption agencies from having to treat civil-unionized couples equally. This year’s bill is stronger and no longer includes such an exclusion. Quoting the Catholic News Agency:
The 2012 Colorado Senate bill proposing to create the unions had stated that the bill “shall not be interpreted to require a child placement agency to place a child for adoption” with a couple in a civil union.
That language, however, is absent from the 2013 bill, S.B. 11.
Much as in other states Catholics are threatening to take their ball and go home.
If Colorado law forces the Colorado Springs-based agency to violate Catholic teaching, he said, “we probably would cease the operation of our adoption programs.”
“That risk is always there,” he said. “I think that we would try to explore every avenue available to us to provide this vital service to the community.”
He said a shutdown is “very well what could happen” given precedents in other states.
In previous years rhetoric opposing the bill was downright comical. In 2011 local grandmother (and Eagle Forum member) Rosina Kovar provided graphic testimony about the human anus. And in 2012 two Senators quoted the Bible in floor debate, one saying “I truly believe Jesus is a better answer than Senate Bill 2.” There has even been a cameo by Paul Cameron.
This year we have a new religious fundamentalist to watch.
It’s widely believed that Facebook post is reffering to Vicki Marble (R-Northern Colorado I-25 corridor) who proudly touts her AFA Action scorecard on her campaign website. Unfortunately Ms Marble’s only appointments are to the Education and Local Government committees so we’ll likely have to wait for the bill to reach the Senate floor for her to embarrass herself. And in other fundamentalist news Colorado Family Action is having a “Rally and Prayer for Marriage” on Friday Jan 25. Legislation dealing with marriage isn’t being considered this year, and marriage is already defined in our state constitution, Amendment 43 so I’m not sure why Colorado Family Action is wasting their time having a rally about it.
The civil union bill’s first hearing is the Senate Judiciary Committee, this Wednesday, January 23, at 1:30 p.m. in the Old Supreme Court Chambers. Committee hearings are broadcast as audio-only on the Colorado Channel’s website.
The final bill is expected to pass and be signed by mid March with the first civil union licenses issued May 1st.
Catholic Charities and Discrimination
March 6th, 2010
[I’m proud to have Jason Cianciotto as a friend and now, perhaps, an occasional contributor to BTB. Jason was previously the Director of the Policy Institute at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, and later the Executive Director of the Wingspan Community Center in Tucson. He is now free as a bird, traveling around the country with his husband, Courter. — Jim B.]
Now that marriage equality has reached Washington, DC, faith-based social service providers that receive city funding are no longer able to discriminate against married gay and lesbian clients and employees. As a result, in mid-February DC Catholic charities transferred its foster-care and adoption program to the National Center for Children and Families in order to avoid having to offer services to married same-sex couples. On March 1st the organization also announced that it would stop offering health insurance to the spouses of all new employees, gay or straight, a move enabling them to “remain faithful to the church’s teachings” by not having to provide insurance to the same-sex spouses of employees.
DC Catholic charities would rather you not see this as an issue of discrimination. Instead they cast themselves as “victims,” losing freedom of religion every time a same-sex couple slips on a pair of wedding rings. Additionally, coverage in the Washington Post characterized these changes as “fallout,” as if same-sex marriage was akin to a nuclear explosion. However, this is a distraction from the real issue at hand: While faith-based organizations should be able to provide services consistent with their beliefs and traditions, when those services are funded by tax dollars, discrimination based on any characteristic should not be allowed. Period.
This scenario already played out in Massachusetts. In 2006 the Archdiocese there also suspended foster care and adoption support services provided through Catholic charities rather than comply with that state’s anti-discrimination laws. As was the case in DC, these services were picked up by other secular agencies. This is a positive outcome for children in need of care based on scientifically supported best practices, rather than on any particular religious tradition.
The distribution of tax dollars to organizations that act in the best interest of children who need a good home, regardless of the sexual orientation of prospective parents, is scientifically supported. For example, in January the Journal of Marriage and Family published a comprehensive analysis of 81 studies of one- and two-parent families, including gay and lesbian couples and individuals. On established measures of self-esteem, social adjustment, and other key indicators, children raised by same-sex parents were indistinguishable from those raised by married men and women. This further strengthens the position of every major medical and mental health professional association in support of the estimated 65,500 adopted children in the U.S. living with a gay or lesbian parent.
As more states legalize same-sex marriage, Catholic charities and other faith-based social service providers will be forced to change discriminatory policies or lose public funding. As was the case in Massachusetts and DC, it is likely that a shift in service provision to secular agencies will continue. This is a positive outcome for all children and families in need, who should not be caught in the cross-fire of the religious rights’ culture war against equality for all Americans.