Ballot initiatives aim to roll back Colorado LGBTQ rights

Ballot initiatives aim to roll back Colorado LGBTQ rights

The anti-same-sex marriage initiatives are coming.

Gene Straub and D’Arcy Straub filed two ballot measures last Thursday — barely a week after the Supreme Court’s historic ruling that made same-sex marriage the law of the land.

The first initiative tries to revert all same-sex marriages to civil unions in Colorado, and the second has to do with whether private businesses can refuse service to same-sex couples.

The first measure states, “A marriage is recognized as a form of religious expression of the people of Colorado that shall not be abridged through the state prescribing or recognizing any law that implicitly or explicitly defines a marriage in opposition or agreement with any particular religious belief.”

And while that’s ambiguous enough on its own, legal director of the Colorado ACLU Mark Silverstein said the real kicker is that all marriages predating the measure or done out of the state would become civil unions. “All marriages. Any marriages. Same sex, opposite sex, done in church or not.”

The language is “incomprehensible,” let alone incapable of standing in court now that marriage is considered a fundamental right in America, Silverstein said in an email to The Colorado Independent.

If anything, it’s “an advertisement for our state’s need to pay dramatically increased attention to the need to teach basic reading and writing in Colorado schools,” he said.

Laura ‘Pinky’ Reinsch, spokeswoman for LGBTQ advocacy group One Colorado, said she’s “not surprised” to see pushback on marriage equality, calling these new ballot initiatives “unnecessary and mean-spirited.”

Neither Gene nor D’Arcy Straub replied to The Colorado Independent‘s request for comment.

D’Arcy Straub is a attorney in Littleton, active in state politics. He penned at least two ballot initiatives in recent years that tried and failed to impose term limits, curb campaign spending and prevent gerrymandering. He also filed an amicus brief in support of undoing Colorado’s infamous TABOR law.

On Monday, Straub’s voicemail box indicated he’s out climbing mountains for the week, not taking calls.

The other ballot measure D’Arcy and Gene Straub proposed would protect a private business owner’s religious freedom to discriminate against same-sex couples when it comes to providing goods and services. This issue mostly comes up in the wedding business.

In 2012, a Lakewood baker refused to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding. The couple filed a discrimination claim that was affirmed by an administrative law judge and reaffirmed in 2014 by the state civil rights commission. That case is now in appeal.

Earlier this year, a customer filed a discrimination complaint against a baker, this time in Denver, for refusing to ice the message “God Hates Gays” on a cake with two groom figurines. Marjorie Silva, owner of Azucar on South Broadway, gave the customer a bag of frosting to do it himself.

Incidents such as these inspired unsuccessful bills in the General Assembly last session aimed at protecting business owners’ religious freedom to discriminate against same-sex couples. Both bills — one sponsored by Rep. Patrick Neville, R-Castle Rock and one by Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt, R-Colorado Springs — were killed in committee.

This morning, attorneys from the 2012 Lakewood case will present oral arguments to the Colorado Court of Appeals.

Each of the proposed measures will need 98,492 signatures to get on the November ballot, and the Straubs are scheduled to meet with the state Legislative Council about the measure’s language later this month.

 

This article was updated July 7, 2015 to provide additional context for Mark Silverstein’s comments.

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About the Author

Nat Stein

Nat Stein is a Denver-based reporter. Check out her other work at Cipher magazine, KRCC public radio, Jacobin magazine and In These Times.

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