GLBT activists: Push for Colorado marriage rights, or not?

In the wake of the California Supreme Court’s decision to grant same-gender couples the right to marry, there are conflicting theories in Colorado’s gay. lesbian, bisexual and transgender community on how to best fight for similar rights in Colorado.

A group of about 15 GLBT activists met at the Metropolitan Community Church of the Rockies June 1 to discuss same-sex marriage, the ex-gay survivor movement and howto gather support for GLBT rights. Most of the group favored pushing ahead for same-sex marriage in Colorado but some members of the larger Colorado GLBT community say it’s more prudent to be patient.   

Colorado looks like a less promising battleground for gay rights in the wake of the failure of Referendum I, a 2006 ballot initiative that would have allowed same-gender couples to enter domestic partnerships, and that year’s passage of Amendment 43, a change to the state Constitution defining marriage as between a man and a woman. But the California decision has reinvigorated the debate between those who want to push for equal rights on all fronts and others who want to move forward more cautiously.

Some members of the Colorado GLBT community feel like it’s time to take a break from aggressively pushing for change in this state.

“We came up short. It’s somebody else’s turn, and now California has taken a big step forward,” said Pat Steadman, a lobbyist for Equal Rights Colorado. “At some point in time the time is going to be right for Colorado to take it up again.”

Some advocates say finding a same-sex couple that is willing and financially able to sue the state for discrimination would be a way to fight for equal rights within the court system rather than at the ballot box. 

A court case concerning same-sex marriage could set a dangerous precedent if it reached the U.S. Supreme Court, considered more conservative with President George W. Bush’s appointments, and a ruling was handed down against equal rights, Steadman said.

But others say that progress is being made here in Colorado and that advocates of GLBT rights should push ahead in Colorado.

Chris Hubble, the state coordinator for Soulforce, a GLBT rights advocacy group, points to Gov. Bill Ritter’s signature last month of Senate Bill 200, a measure that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation when it comes to jury duty, housing transactions and doing business with anyone who offers a service to the public.

Hubble said states with similar legislation are more likely to accept some form of legally recognized same-sex unions.  

“Sometimes I feel like we’re too timid,” said Kate Burns, one of two women arrested last year for refusing to leave the Denver Clerk and Recorder’s office last year after being denied a marriage certificate. “As a citizen of Colorado, I get tied of waiting and waiting.”

Burns said she’s aware of concerns about pushing for equal rights in Colorado but called doing nothing “demoralizing.” She also pointed out that other civil rights movements worked on many fronts until progress was made. 

Besides, Burns added, the California Supreme Court is considered conservative and yet that court decided to let same-sex couples have the right to marry.

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