Polis, Starin differ dramatically on gay rights issues in Colorado’s 2nd district

(Photo/dbking, Flickr)
(Photo/dbking, Flickr)
Republican 2nd Congressional District candidate Scott Starin balks at the notion of amending the U.S. Constitution, an action he says should not be taken lightly. But when it comes to same-sex marriage, he would be willing to make an exception.

“At the federal level, I always am hesitant to amend the Constitution; there’s a reason it’s only been amended a few times in our 230-year-plus history,” said Starin, who’s running against openly gay Democrat Jared Polis in the left-leaning district that includes Boulder.

“I have stated that I would support a simple amendment stating that marriage is between one man and one woman, but you know, really, I don’t think that’s the pressing, burning issue of our time right now, and we’ve got more important things that the Congress and the states need to address right now.”

On that topic at least, Polis and Starin agree.

“It’s always overblown as a political issue,” Polis said. “There are a few extremists that care a lot about denying equal rights to Americans, but most Americans are very tolerant and respectful of people who are different from them.”

Polis supports states deciding whether to legalize same-sex marriage, but maintains there should be full-marriage equality for gay couples on federal issues such as taxes, discrimination and immigration. He adds that the federal Defense of Marriage Act should be overturned so that gay marriages granted in states where it’s legal are recognized in other states.

Starin, who has a wife and two children, accuses Polis of largely ducking the issue until he had safely won his bitterly contested Aug. 12 Democratic primary against former state Senate president Joan Fitz-Gerald and conservationist Will Shafroth.

[Polis] said he was openly gay but really didn’t play that up much in the primaries at all till the night he was he was elected and made statements to the effect that this was a referendum on gay issues, and I do not agree that that was the auspice under which he was elected,” Starin said. “I’ve had many people come up to me still not aware that he was gay until they saw that [Aug. 15] Rocky Mountain News article that showed him on stage with his life partner.”

In fact, numerous articles prior to the primary had dealt with Polis’ sexual orientation, including a June 21 Colorado Independent story, but the candidate himself chose to campaign on issues such as his plan to pull U.S. troops out of Iraq, education reform, universal health care and the environment.

Acknowledging the country is facing much more pressing problems and that the issue of gay rights has not had the prominence of past elections, Polis still would like to see a more robust debate on the topic.

“Certainly among our national candidates I’d like to see a little more enthusiasm for an equality agenda,” Polis said. “At least [Sen.] Joe Biden came out in support of civil unions, which is certainly a step toward equality for the relationships that our gay and lesbian Americans have.”

Biden, the Democratic vice presidential nominee, said during his only debate with Republican VP candidate and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin that he and his running mate, Sen. Barack Obama, do not support gay marriage at the federal level. But he challenged Palin on whether she and Sen. John McCain favor making any civil rights distinctions between heterosexual and gay couples.

“Your question to him was whether he supported gay marriage, and my answer is the same as his, and it is that I do not,” Palin said, ducking the question. However, she did say she is tolerant of same-sex couples and has a very diverse family and set of friends.

“Tolerance is a step away from accepting, but at least it’s a step in the right direction,” said Polis, who would become Colorado’s first openly gay member of Congress and only the third currently serving. Both Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) and Barney Frank (D-Mass.) are openly gay and seeking re-election.

Finally, Starin objected to a May ruling by the California Supreme Court that legalized same-sex marriage by overturning a ban approved by voters in 2000. Now the ban is back on the Nov. 4 ballot as Proposition 8.

“One thing that really concerns me is the California court overturning a referendum that a marriage is between one man and one woman,” Starin said. “I’ve got a big problem with that. We can’t have courts overturning the popular will of the people. That was way out of their jurisdiction.”

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