Six Inches Forward, Five Inches Back

Andrew Belonsky writes for Towleroad:

Republican leaders in Colorado have formed a group called Coloradans for Freedom to fight for civil unions there.

“The point is not to create conflict within the Republican Party,” one of the organizers, local attorney Mario Nicolais, told the Denver Post. “It is to provide resources to people interested in the conservative argument for civil unions.”

Civil unions passed the state’s Senate last year, but were squashed by a House panel, setting the stage for another legislative fight for the upcoming session. As lawmakers return to work, Coloradans for Freedom will hold a cocktail party headlines by former State Rep. Rob Witwer, a high-profile advocate for civil unions who frames his arguments as a matter of “human freedom.”

Discussing the new organization, Witwer used distinctly “choice” oriented language. “In my mind, there’s nothing inconsistent with being a Republican and supporting the rights of gay people to live as they choose,” he said. “I would like gay people who believe in limited government and fiscal responsibility to know they still have a home in the Republican Party.”

After the defeat of civil unions legislation in the Colorado General Assembly last session, some Republicans like Sen. Shawn Mitchell expressed…well, not exactly remorse over their “no” votes, but at least a possible willingness to consider the issue again the next time it comes up. As we’ve discussed in this space, polling on the issue of civil unions for gays and lesbians has shifted dramatically in recent years, and public support for civil unions is reaching the point of becoming a serious liability for its conservative, traditionally GOP opponents.

And, of course, those new legislative district maps really do call for the kind of recently-discovered moderation you’re seeing from “Coloradans for Freedom.” So there at least could be very, well, practical considerations at work here. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Though unfortunately, on the same day as the new moderate Republican campaign in favor of civil unions gets deservedly glowing press, arch-conservative Sen. Kevin Lundberg also made news–announcing the latest iteration of a “divorce waiting period” bill. Reportedly, Lundberg hopes that his pet “family values” legislation might do better this year, since he had the presence of mind to exempt victims of violence and sexual abuse. How charitable of him!

We could go on–for example, we haven’t heard yet how Sen. Scott Renfroe thinks this GOP-for-gay-rights thing squares with the Book of Leviticus, but given that he equated being gay with “murder” and “all sorts of sin,” we wouldn’t hold our breath for a favorable opinion. But at a certain level, any move by any Republican to start walking back the decades of hateful rhetoric that places them increasingly on the distasteful fringes of public opinion should be applauded.

Maybe someday, Republicans standing up for gay rights won’t seem so, you know, so weird.

18 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. Middle of the Road says:

    from several articles, I have to say that I don’t think you are giving this group the proper credit it’s due or acknowledging what a major breakthrough this is for the Colorado Republican Party.

    True, this is an offshoot group of Republicans forming Coloradans for Freedom but take a look at some of the folks that are publicly signing on and speaking up–Former House Speaker Chuck Berry, Nancy Spence, Kelly Maher, Sean Duffy (believe it or not), former State Rep Rob Witwer. There are some heavy hitters here and some of same said folks have excellent ties to major financing.

    So, more props and less sarcasm on this one. Credit where credit is due without turning something significantly good into an insult would be a great place to start. This group may be the final impetus for getting civil unions legalized in Colorado.  

    • JeffcoBlueJeffcoBlue says:

      Is still one inch to the good! I agree that Witwer and friends are most likely completely sincere. AND I agree with Pols that the GOP has a lot to answer for on the issue of gay rights. Coloradans for Freedom should expect a jaundiced eye because conservatives deserve it. They can prove Pols wrong, and then I’ll join you in demanding an apology.

      I do think it’s interesting that both Mario Nicloais and Witwer are fresh off the reapportionment commission, but that’s probably just a coincidence. Hee!

      PS. HILARIOUS title, Pols. I hope people get it!

    • AristotleAristotle says:

      it should be pointed out that civil unions, unless they’re for opposite-sex couples too, are an attempt at a separate but equal kind of status. (And obviously if they’re for opposite-sex couples, then marriage will have to be open to same-sex couples in order to be equitable.)

      I’m sure, for Republicans, that this is a real sea change, and it’s nice that they’re finally acknowledging LGBT citizens as, you know, citizens. But it’s still behind the times and betrays their lack of real understanding of this issue.

      Granted, it’s not like Colorado Democrats have been great champions themselves…

  2. Half Glass FullHalf Glass Full says:

    by that wacky Colorado grandma going on and on at a committee hearing about sphincters.

    If Republicans could re-frame the gay rights issue as one of liberty and freedom to live one’s private life as one pleases, as long as it’s not hurting anyone else, this could have the potential to change the political landscape.

    • JeffcoBlueJeffcoBlue says:

      I would try to take this issue off the table before another generation of kids becomes convinced that Republicans are haters. I believe that both Nicolais and Witwer are very smart Republicans.

      It’s even more of a shame, then, that their colleagues are not so smart.

    • BlueCat says:

      over the past several decades.  Authoritarian Christian social conservatism has become mandatory,  a no compromise GOP litmus test.  Today’s GOP isn’t about personal liberty. Not at all.

      That may have been something the GOP wanted to be known as standing for in the past but whether we’re talking about gay rights or the oldest most hallowed rights to habeas corpus or freedom from indefinite detention, subjection to torture, protection from unreasonable  invasion of privacy without a warrant, the GOP is now the party of government authoritarianism  everywhere, except in the boardroom.  

      Only the liberties of  corporations, unfettered by any responsibilities to the public, are to be preserved. The public is to be subject to all kinds of limits and denied all kinds of liberties, civil and social.

      The question is can Republicans who really do believe in individual and civil liberties have a voice in the contemporary GOP?  Will they take back a degree of power within the party or will they remain sidelined, unable to help create a viable 21st century party.

      It will no longer be possible to be strictly the party of the white religious right in the not very distant future and win elections but I don’t think the GOP is ready to face that head on yet. Corporate style, they still believe in fighting just for immediate profit and the success of the current quarter only. Let some other poor future CEO worry about the evil day when it comes.

      • ParkHill says:

        At some point the cognitive dissonance will reach a pitch and volume that the whole Republican party will shatter.

        The country will be a much better place when the Republican Party collapses.

        • BlueCat says:

          Will Romney win the nomination and a big segment of the base fail to go along quietly as usual with the establishment pick, as they did with McCain? Will a third party candidate crush GOP hopes?  If not now, demographics will do them in just a bit more gradually unless they do their present incarnation in themselves by transforming into something completely different.

    • ParkHill says:

      Wacky Grandmas and Wacky Presidential Candidates. When will it ever stop!?

      I think that wacky grandma was a liberal plant, inserted to discredit the Republican Party.

      That’s the only sensible explanation for Santorum, Perry, Bachman, Paul.

      I mean, do you know people who actually believe all that weird crap (ahem)?

  3. allyncooper says:

    Maybe someday, Republicans standing up for gay rights won’t seem so, you know, so weird.

    That “someday” was actually 20 years ago when a  Republican conservative who knew the difference between individual freedom and the moralistic tyranny of the religious right fully supported gay and lesbian rights, including their right to serve in the military.

    His name was Barry Goldwater.  Weird, huh ?  

    • BlueCat says:

      Now they’re all about moralistic tyranny (for the riff raff.  They live by different standards. Ask Newt and that Appalachian Trail guy), unfettered Wall Street anarchy and socialism for the wealth and power elite.  Main Street?  That’s just for the  little people they get to vote for them with the whole gays, guns and God thing.  

    • AristotleAristotle says:

      I know he was the “Father” of modern conservatism, but he sure was at odds with a lot of what that’s become. But then again, my guess is that he was a true fiscal conservative, and most of the BS associated with that label was brought into the GOP when they attracted all the social cons.

    • Craig says:

      I was still a Republican.  Goldwater said, that he didn’t care whether people serving in the military were straight, he only cared if they could shoot straight.  He was pro-chioce.  The main Republican pro-choice group has an annual award named after him.  When Nixon was in trouble he said, “God Damn it, quit asking me that question.  If he’s guilty he should resign, if he’s not, he should stay and fight.”  He had the knack for letting people know where he was with a minimum or words, no pandering and no misundertanding and no flip-flopping.  We could use those qualities on both sides of the aisle these days.

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