Colorado reacts to Supreme Court ruling in favor of gay marriage
Court creates calls to action for gay marriage supporters, opponents
"Colorado is ready to have that conversation, and we're ready to have that conversation with them," said Brad Clark, executive director of One Colorado, the advocacy arm of a coalition of gay-rights organizations in the state.
The Catholic Church opposes gay marriage, and the Archdiocese of Denver said Wednesday the court rulings mean work needs to be done to strengthen the traditional interpretation of marriage.
"Popular sentiment and ideology notwithstanding, the Church has always and will always uphold, encourage, and support the institution
"Obviously today's ruling only confirms the support for full marriage equality that's sweeping. Colorado is ready to have that conversation, and we're ready to have that conversation with them."
— Brad Clark, executive director of One Colorado
of matrimony," the archdiocese said. "No law will change this conviction, and no campaign will convince the Church to deny what it has always taught about the crucial importance of this institution."
The archdiocese noted in its statement that voters approved Amendment 43 in 2006, putting a ban on gay marriage in the state constitution.
"The Archdiocese of Denver encourages all elected officials to uphold and support our state constitution."
Jim Daly, president of Colorado Springs-based Focus on the Family, called the decisions disappointing.
"Yet, however disappointing the rulings may be to those of us who embrace natural marriage, the decisions should not elicit a spirit of despair," Daly said.
The rulings on the federal Defense of Marriage Act and California's Proposition 8 have no immediate impact on Colorado. Mindy Barton, legal director for the GLBT Community Center of Colorado, said it could be interpreted in future court cases to entitle couples to marry in states that allow it, but collect federal benefits in Colorado.
In some cases, it would depend on the type of benefit. For instance, collecting Social Security survivor benefits depends on where a couple is living when a spouse
Michael Knaapen, left, and his husband John Becker, right, embrace outside the Supreme Court in Washington, Wednesday, June 26, 2013, after the court cleared the way for same-sex marriage in California by holding that defenders of California's gay marriage ban did not have the right to appeal lower court rulings striking down the ban. (Charles Dharapak, Associated Press)
dies, while immigration cases are based on where the couple was married.
Catriona Dowling and Cathy Davis of Boulder had their home riding on the outcome of the court's DOMA ruling.
The couple was married last year in Iowa, though Cathy, a nurse and a citizen of Ireland, is living in the United States on a work visa with Dowling and their three children.
Despite the best efforts of their congressman, Jared Polis, the couple's marriage is not recognized at the federal level, which blocks Cathy's application for a green card.
Dowling disagreed with those who see the issue as one of morality.
"It's not a morality or sexuality issue," she said. "It's a family issue."
While the Colorado legislature granted civil unions and state recognition, more than 1,000 of the legal benefits and tax breaks granted to couples originate at the federal level.
"It's a tax on being who you are," Wade Johnson of Lakewood said, explaining he and his partner could save hundreds of dollars a year by filing joint tax returns.
A poll released two months ago indicated that Colorado
American University students Sharon Burk, left, and Molly Wagner participate in a rally for rights for gay couples in front of the Supreme Court in Washington, Wednesday, June 26, 2013, after the court cleared the way for same-sex marriage in California by holding that defenders of California's gay marriage ban did not have the right to appeal lower court rulings striking down the ban. (Charles Dharapak, Associated Press)
residents now support gay marriage 51 percent to 43 percent. Among voters younger than 30, it passes by a 74 percent to 17 percent spread, according to left-leaning Public Policy Polling.
Public opinion, however, doesn't always translate to votes on Election Day, Denver pollster Floyd Ciruli said.
Catholics, including those who are older and some who identify as Democrats, would be less likely to support it. Latino and African-American voters also have traditionally opposed gay marriage.
Those demographics, however, are changing. African-American voters have shifted since President Obama said last year his opinion on the issue had "evolved," Ciruli said. Latinos younger than 30, for example, support gay marriage by
A gay rights activist runs out of the Supreme Court in Washington, Wednesday, June 26, 2013, as rulings were handed down that impact same-sex relationships. (J. Scott Applewhite, Associated Press)
more than 65 percent, which tracks with the rest of young voters on the issue in Colorado.
The state has a history of legal scrapes about gay issues.
In 1992, Colorado voters, by a 53 percent to 47 percent margin, passed Amendment 2, which blocked any state or local government from treating homosexuals as a minority group with protected status.
In 1994, the Colorado Supreme Court affirmed a lower court's ruling that Amendment 2 is unconstitutional. In 1996, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Amendment 2 for good, calling it "born of animosity" toward gays.
In 2012, Republican House Speaker Frank McNulty refused to allow a civil unions bill to be heard by the entire House while knowing there were enough votes to pass it, effectively killing it.
McNulty did not return a telephone call for comment Wednesday.
Former El Paso County commissioner and state Sen. Ed Jones, an Amendment 43 supporter, said gay-rights supporters have momentum now. He thinks they can be defeated, but for traditional marriage supporters to lose means "to define marriage in something other than a religious sense," he said. "It's scary."
A Republican and an African-American, Jones, 70, says claims that gay Coloradans are fighting for their civil rights rubs him the wrong way. He grew up in a segregated Mississippi in a county named for Ku Klux Klan founder Nathan Bedford Forrest.
"I've never seen a sign that says, 'No gays allowed,' " he said. "But I grew up seeing signs that said, 'No coloreds allowed.' It's not the same thing."
Jones expects the fight over gay marriage to continue in Colorado.
"If you crack open the door just a little bit, they'll kick it in," he said.
Joey Bunch: 303-954-1174, firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter.com/joeybunch
Colorado voters in 2006 passed a constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman. Gay marriage in Colorado could be allowed only after that amendment is repealed by two-thirds majorities or more in both the Colorado House and Senate. A repeal also could petitioned onto the ballot. Supporters would have to collect a number of signatures equal to 5 percent of the votes cast in the last election for secretary of state, or 86,105 signatures, to place such a repeal on the ballot.