Marriage Equality The Law of the Land

SATURDAY UPDATE: Last night’s celebration at the Colorado Capitol was fittingly historic in itself, photo courtesy One Colorado:

comarriageequality

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loveisequal
Graphic via Rep. Jared Polis

UPDATE #4: Colorado Democratic legislative leaders weigh in:

“’Justice delayed is justice denied,’ and today – finally – the delay is over, and all loving families have the right to marriage. It is about time!” said Sen. Morgan Carroll, D-Aurora, Senate Democratic Leader. “Today we should honor those who fought for equality before us, but sadly aren’t here to see the outcome of their struggle. And we should also celebrate the fact that love finally won. Love will always prevail over hate and intolerance. What a great day for all Americans!”

“The Court has brought the finishing touch to the long journey for equality in marriage,” said Sen. Lucia Guzman, D-Denver. “On the Eve of our country celebrating our freedom, may we all stop for a moment and give thanks to all who have fought the great battles for Justice.”

“Colorado Democrats have been fighting for equality for the LGBT community for a long time,” said Speaker Dickey Lee Hullinghorst, D-Boulder. “Today’s decision in the Supreme Court affirms what I’ve known since this fight was just getting started: no matter how long it takes, no matter how hard it gets, no matter what the opponents of equality throw in our way, in the end, love wins.”

“In the 90’s, Colorado was called the ‘hate state’ with the passage of Amendment 2,” said Rep. Paul Rosenthal, D-Denver, co-chair of the House LGBT Caucus. “Since then, we have acted quickly and broadly on LGBT equality. Colorado set the table and helped shape the debate that led to today’s Supreme Court decision, and I couldn’t be more proud to have been a part of it.”

“From designated beneficiaries to two-parent adoption, the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act, to civil unions and today’s decision, Colorado has been on the right track for LGBT individuals and families for a long time,” said Rep. Joann Ginal, D-Fort Collins, co-chair of the House LGBT Caucus. “I’m proud to have been part of the caucus to sponsor and pass the Colorado Civil Unions Act in 2013, and today’s decision finally gives all Americans the right to marry who they love.”

UPDATE #3: Rep. Diana DeGette of Denver is ready to officiate more weddings:

“Finally, every loving couple in the United States may choose to express their commitment in marriage and be assured of its legal benefits and responsibilities. This is a proud moment in our ongoing march towards full equality.

“I was particularly touched by Justice Kennedy’s observation about the children of same sex couples, who have borne the burden of the inequality of their parents’ relationships, observing:

‘[e]xcluding same-sex couples from marriage thus conflicts with a central premise of the right to marry. Without the recognition, stability, and predictability marriage offers, their children suffer the stigma of knowing their families are somehow lesser. They also suffer the significant material costs of being raised by unmarried parents, relegated through no fault of their own to a more difficult and uncertain family life.’

“That stigma ends now.

“I have proudly officiated services for same sex couples, and I have my minister’s license ready to perform more.”

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UPDATE #2: Polar opposite statements two Colorado congressmen–Rep. Jared Polis:

“The road to LGBT equality in America has not been an easy one. From the Stonewall riots in 1969, to an epidemic that killed hundreds of thousands of gay men; from a Supervisor assassinated for refusing to blend in, to a Wyoming college student beaten to death for his sexual orientation, that road has been paved with far too many tragic days.

“Today is not one of those. Today is a day to celebrate, as we’ve overcome one of our most challenging obstacles yet.

“With today’s decision, the Court ruled in no uncertain terms that the bonds of love, commitment, and responsibility that all our families share exist without regard to gender and deserve the dignity of being recognized under the law.”

Compare that to GOP Rep. Doug Lamborn of Colorado Springs:

“I am very disappointed that the Supreme Court chose to utilize their power to disenfranchise millions of Americans with valid moral and cultural concerns via this decision. By undertaking this staggering judicial overreach, the Court, in its very finite wisdom, has decided to throw out thousands of years of tradition and societal structure. Decisions of this magnitude should absolutely be made on a state-by-state basis with local and individual citizen involvement. This decision is a slap in the face to all Americans who value this tradition of local government.”

Meanwhile, Rep. Mike Coffman is ready to change the subject:

“The world is changing, and while I’ve supported traditional marriage, the court has ruled a ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional. It is time we move forward and focus on the big debates of our day — how to keep our country safe and get Americans back to work.”

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Get More Smarter on Tuesday (May 5)

Cinco-LogoIt’s Cinco de Mayo, which translates in Denver to “Election Day.” It’s time to Get More Smarter with Colorado Pols. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example).

 

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► It’s Election Day in Denver. If you still have a mail ballot at home, you’re going to need to truck that sucker to a drop-off location before 7:00 p.m. Visit the website of the Denver Clerk and Recorder for drop-off information.

 ► Republican-led efforts to pass a fetal homicide Personhood bill in the legislature came to a predictable end yesterday when a House Committee axed SB-268 on a party-line vote.

 ► The U.S. Supreme Court seems a little hazy about what to do with legal marijuana, so they are asking the advice of the U.S. Solicitor General. As it turns out, we still have a Solicitor General.


Get even more smarter after the jump…

(more…)

Steve House Jumps On Andrews’ Hater Grenade

John Andrews.

John Andrews.

The controversy continues over the decision by organizers of the Western Conservative Summit, a major gathering in Denver of Republican politicos and activists including numerous 2016 presidential hopefuls, to “disinvite” the Log Cabin Republicans as a group that advocates “contrary to our agenda and our core beliefs.” The Denver Post’s Lynn Bartels reported late yesterday on belated damage control attempts by the Colorado Republican Party, looking to stop the proverbial bleeding before it becomes a nationwide embarrassment for high-level candidates who were planning to attend:

The Colorado Republican Party has invited a gay GOP group that wasn’t allowed to set up a table at the Western Conservative Summit in Denver to share its booth.

Party Chairman Steve House, who took over in March, made the announcement Thursday afternoon, one day after a firestorm over the snub by summit organizers to the Log Cabin Republicans.

Western Conservative Summit organizer John Andrews is clearly on the defensive at this point, but still isn’t very happy about having the tables turned:

“We’re fine with the Colorado Republicans sharing some table space at the summit with all their affiliated groups. We’re not fine with the shaming and bullying pressure tactics of Log Cabin Republicans’ national office,” said summit chairman John Andrews.

Andrews responded further in a blog post at the Centennial Institute:

The Log Cabin Republicans were never specifically invited to be a Summit exhibitor, rather they applied and paid online, subject to CCU’s final approval. When we politely declined such organizational recognition and affirmed they are welcome to attend as individuals, they chose to make a news story of it.

Let them try. We don’t believe a private religious organization standing by its core beliefs is news at all… [Pols emphasis]

Unfortunately for Andrews and the high-profile Western Conservative Summit, their decision to exclude the GOP’s foremost LGBT advocacy group absolutely is news. With public attitudes toward marriage equality rapidly shifting away from the intolerance Republicans have capitalized on politically for decades, this controversy stands out as a symbol of the conflict over the issue–a conflict that now exists almost entirely within the Republican Party, as just about everyone else in our society is ready to see gays and lesbians vested with the same rights and responsibilities as every other American.

In short, Andrews has placed this conference, and by extension everyone who attends it, on the wrong side of an overwhelming consensus in America that LGBT Americans deserve equality. Political fallout far above the level of John Andrews and Colorado Christian University this could result in is what Colorado GOP chairman Steve House is afraid of. House made the best decision possible in a bad situation, but the underlying problem of a party at war with itself–over an issue increasingly settled outside the GOP–is still very much in the spotlight.

And this won’t be the last time it gets publicly nasty.

The Big Tent Collapses: Log Cabin Republicans Booted From Western Conservative Summit

John Andrews.

John Andrews.

A press release from Alex Hornaday of the Colorado Log Cabin Republicans today announces that the group has been disinvited from this year’s Western Conservative Summit at Colorado Christian University:

After being invited and charged a $250 fee, the Colorado Log Cabin Republicans group was disinvited from Western Conservative Summit. Today, John Andrews, the head of Colorado Christian University and Western Conservative Summit, sent the following in response to Colorado Log Cabin Republicans:

“You and your members are very welcome to get tickets and attend, but we can’t officially have the organization as a partner, exhibitor, or advertiser. [Log Cabin Republicans’] worldview and policy agenda are fundamentally at odds with what Colorado Christian University stands for, so it’s just not a fit. [Pols emphasis] I’m sorry it has to be that way.”

“Log Cabin Republicans are known for the hilarious ads painting Jared Polis as a king and the radio ads that aired that featured the ‘Ufestyles of the Rich and Out of Touch’ in an effort to educate Coloradans about Polis’ extremism and hypocrisy. Many of the members of our Colorado chapter are well known conservatives, and one of our board members even ran for the state senate as a Republican,” said Alex Hornaday, spokesperson and vice president.

“At our last meeting we decided we wanted to participate for the first time, have a table, you know nothing huge, but we told we could not participate in any context except as a ticket-buying attendee. Our policy agenda is one that advances a free society, and a freer economy. I think they are missing out.”

“Look, they are a private organization with every right to decide to include whom they wish.” Hornaday clarified, ‘We aren’t going to sue them over this. Nevertheless, a marketplace thrives on information, and this is information that might inform some others’ patronage.”

The Denver Post’s Lynn Bartels follows up this morning with John Andrews:

He reiterated that this morning, telling The Denver Post he was “disappointed” that no one from the Log Cabin Republicans called him to discuss the situation and instead sent out a news release.

“The Log Cabin Republicans exists to redefine the family. Log Cabin Republicans think gay marriage should be the law of the land and Colorado Christian University doesn’t believe it should be,” he said. “They advocate contrary to our agenda and our core beliefs.” [Pols emphasis]

Stay tuned: with the Western Conservative Summit set to host numerous high-profile Republicans including a number of top-tier candidates for president, disinviting the Log Cabin Republicans could become a significantly bigger news story than whoever made this ill-advised decision is expecting. The negative press this move seems likely to generate strikes us as much more damaging to the conference, and the GOP brand in general, than simply allowing the Log Cabin Republicans to be there.

But when you’re blinded by prejudice, you tend to not think about how it looks to others. We’ll update this story as it develops.

James “SpongeDob” Dobson: Gay Marriage Could Start Civil War

James Dobson.

James Dobson.

We haven’t heard much in the last few years from the founder of Colorado Springs-based Focus on the Family, Dr. James Dobson, since his retirement from that leading evangelical Christian group in 2009. Since then, Dobson has continued on with a new “ministry” with a similar focus, Dr. James Dobson’s Family Talk, which if you didn’t know is headquartered just across I-25 from Focus on the Family in Colorado Springs.

Formerly an icon on the “culture wars,” famous for his tirade against the children’s television program SpongeBob Squarepants, Dobson has a somewhat lower profile in American politics today–reportedly by design–but when he does speak, he can still make controversial headlines without breaking a sweat. As Right Wing Watch reports:

James Dobson, the founder of the Religious Right behemoth Focus on the Family, warned in a recent conference call with fellow anti-gay activists that a Supreme Court ruling in favor of marriage equality could lead to a full-blown civil war.

After Janet Porter, the creator of a new “documentary” about how the gay rights movement will outlaw Christianity, discussed her “restraining order” campaign to convince Congress to strip the Supreme Court of its authority to rule on marriage cases, Dobson said that his fellow activists “need to be realistic about what we’re up against here.”

He said that the gay rights issue has reached an unprecedented “level of intensity” and put the country on the brink of conflict: “Talk about a Civil War, we could have another one over this.” [Pols emphasis]

Dobson also claimed that marriage equality will lead to the collapse of the nation: “The country can be no stronger than its families. I really believe if what the Supreme Court is about to do is carried through with, and it looks like it will be, then we’re going to see a general collapse in the next decade or two. I just am convinced of that. So we need to do everything we can to try to hold it back and to preserve the institution of marriage.”

Here’s the audio, with the Bob Beauprez-style civil war forecast starting at about 1:35:

And here’s where Dobson asserts that if the Supreme Court upholds marriage equality, the United States will “collapse in the next decade or two.”

Shocking stuff to hear in 2015, but keep it in perspective: a decade ago, this kind of far-out rhetoric was actually pretty common on the religious right. The last few years have witnessed a rapid shift in public opinion across America toward overwhelming public support for marriage equality, and the once-powerful religious right, led by men like Dobson, has been basically powerless to stop the falling dominoes.

But today, in what may be the last few months before the Supreme Court settles this question forever, it makes sense that the rhetoric from the far right–and naturally, we hope that it remains just rhetoric–is going bury the proverbial needle. Given his long history, it’s embarrassing but not a surprise that Colorado’s own James Dobson is staking out the fringe of this discussion.

Klingenschmitt Doesn’t Separate Political and Religious Money, either…

Rep. Gordon K. in Da Housse! (from GJK’s Facebook page)

(This is a reader diary promoted to the front page by Colorado Pols)

Representative Gordon Klingenschmitt from Colorado’s House District 15 just cannot remove his foot from his mouth. He also just cannot separate religious and political speech. Using scripture to explain horrible crimes, slandering of colleagues and organizations as terrorists, all stem from this basic conflation.

However, what I’m outlining here is how his campaign finances suffer from the entanglement of religion with politics. I will look at all three organizations Klingenschmitt owns or uses:

  1. GJK, Inc (his for-profit company),
  2. GordonforColorado, (his campaign committee),
  3. The Pray in Jesus Name/Persuade the World Ministries nonprofit. (PIJN/PTWM).

It’s not as gruesome and insensitive as his “God judges America /Ripping Women Open” comments, but just as horrifying if you believe, as our country’s founders did, as I do, in the separation of church and state.

Problem #1: The mysterious GJK, Inc. corporation

GJK as linked from the Pray in Jesus Name to Paypal “Donate to Political Work”
  •  GJK Inc, appears to be Klingenschmitt’s large, unregulated,  unaccountable cash stream from online donation buttons on the PJIN religious pages. This is illegal and unethical. 

 

 

[Lots more after the jump…]

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Get More Smarter on Thursday (Feb. 26)

MoreSmarterLogo-Hat1

We've installed fresh batteries in the Colorado Pols Quadruple Doppler (with cheese), which is predicting as much as 10 feet of snow today. Or maybe less. It's time to Get More Smarter with Colorado Pols. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here's a good example).


TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► With one day left to authorize funding for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Colorado's Congressional delegation remains divided on how to move forward — no surprise, perhaps, given that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker John Boehner can't even work things out inside their Republican majority. And what about freshman Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma)? Here's Mark Matthews of the Denver Post:

Less clear was the stance of newly elected U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner. The Colorado Republican did not agree to an interview. Instead, his office released a statement that spoke less to a legislative solution and more to the actions of Democrats. "Senate Democrats are playing politics with our national security. It's wrong, and they should stop," he said in a statement. [Pols emphasis]

Once again, we remind you that REPUBLICANS HAVE MAJORITY CONTROL IN CONGRESS. Blaming Democrats for this one is like saying it's John Hickenlooper's fault that the Denver Broncos didn't win the Super Bowl. There's no way out of this mess for Republicans now.

Chris Cilizza of the Washington Post explains how Republicans got into this DHS funding mess in the first place.

► The Colorado legislature took a Snow Day on Monday because of poor road conditions, but not again today; there's plenty of legislatin' going on under the Golden Dome of the State Capitol.

Get even more smarter after the jump…

(more…)

Get More Smarter on Tuesday (Feb. 24)

Get More Smarter

Put down the snowman and get back to work. It's time to Get More Smarter with Colorado Pols. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here's a good example).


TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► Today the Senate Judiciary Committee will discuss regulating "unmanned aerial vehicles," more commonly known as "drones." Don't tell Vice Chair Kevin Lundberg, but staff at the Capitol expect to be regaled by testimony from tiny little pilots.

No Homeland Security funding for you! Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is trying to figure out what to do after the Senate voted for a fourth time to block funding for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) because Republicans are still mad that President Obama tried to do something about immigration. Congress has until Feb. 27 to approve appropriations to continue funding DHS. From the Durango Herald:

DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson has warned that an agency shutdown would result in 75-80 percent of staff members being forced to work without pay, as their jobs are deemed vital to national security. An additional 30,000 would be furloughed.

Get even more smarter after the jump…

(more…)

Nobody Does Nothing Quite Like Senate Republicans

The Captain does not approve

Republicans hold a one-seat majority in the State Senate, and they are off to a fast start in promoting their policy agenda. We dare say: nobody does nothing quite like Senate Republicans.

While destroying limiting government is a pretty common refrain to hear from right-wing Republicans such as Senate President Bill Cadman, Assistant Majority Leader Kevin Lundberg, and Majority Caucus Chair/culinary expert Vicki Marble, we'd venture a guess that even they've been a little surprised at just how easy it can be to make government do nothing. Hell, they're making nothing happen without even doing anything!

Consider what Senate Republicans didn't accomplish today: they allowed two important bipartisan commissions to expire on their own by not voting to renew them. Republicans didn't have to create any new legislation or come up with any ideas of their own — all they had to do was not let the commissions expire.

Equal Pay for Equal Work: Senate Republicans ended the Pay Equity Commission by doing nothing to allow it to continue. The Commission was created to study the existing pay gap between men, women, and minorities, and to come up with solutions for closing the gap. According to information provided by Senate Democrats, "Colorado women are still only paid 80 cents for every dollar earned by men, and the gap is wider for women of color. African American women earn only 67.5 cents and Latinas just 52.5 cents for every dollar earned by the highest earners."

Promoting Fair and Modern Elections: Say goodbye to the Colorado Voter Access and Modernized Elections Commission (COVAME) , which will cease operations on July 1, 2015. Today Republicans on the Senate State, Veterans, and Military Affairs Committee allowed the clock to run out on re-authorization of the committee. Nevermind the constant refrain from Republicans about how concerned they are when it comes to voter fraud — the magical Private Industry Fairy will save them. A press release from the Senate Democrats explains more about COVAME:

The General Assembly established the COVAME in 2013, as part of the Colorado Voter Access and Modernized Elections Act (HB 13-1303).  This measure sought to make elections simpler and more accessible for all eligible voters, and some of its provisions called for changes in how elections are physically conducted.  Notably, it called for mail ballots to go out to all voters in general elections, Voter Service and Polling Centers to replace traditional precinct polling places, and for allowing voter registration up until Election Day.

The final COVAME report is not due until mid-February of 2015, and it will provide analysis from the 2014 election and offer recommendations for 2016. 

We've said before that Colorado Republicans appear to have misinterpreted a one-seat majority as giving them a mandate to do whatever they choose. This would appear to be yet another example of that fallacy; we're pretty confident that Colorado voters weren't looking for the GOP to sit on their hands once they took office.

Rep. Chaps Ain’t “Moderating” One Bit

chaps119

Rep. Gordon "Dr. Chaps" Klingenschmitt was sworn in as a Colorado state legislator last Wednesday, an event he celebrated with his Facebook followers at the Pray in Jesus' Name Project. Rep. Klingesnschmitt didn't waste time getting the next couple editions of his Youtube video call-in show posted despite his swearing in last week, and this week's show is already online. For those just joining us, Colorado Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt is a disgraced former Navy chaplain who regularly accuses President Barack Obama and a long cast of players in American politics of being "possessed" with "demonic spirits." On his weekly video program, "Chaps" warns that Obamacare causes cancer, and says only people who are "going to heaven" deserve equal rights from government. Last year, Chaps was finally persuaded to apologize, an apparently very rare occurrence, after suggesting that Rep. Jared Polis wanted to "join ISIS in beheading Christians."

In the latest episode of Pray in Jesus' Name, Klingenschmitt discusses the repeal of a city ordinance in Fayetteville, Arkansas that extended discrimination protections to LGBT residents. The narrow vote to repeal of Ordinance 119 after it was passed by the Fayetteville City Council last August was a pretty big story in mid-December. But the law "Chaps" talks about on his show bears little resemblance to what was actually passed–he describes Ordinance 119 as a law to "put Christians in jail, or at least bankrupt their businesses." On a one-to-ten scale of "Chaps" crazy, we'd rate this a solid 7+.

Despite his nationally infamous work product, which was notorious long before he ran for the Colorado legislature, "Chaps" was elected to represent the citizens of El Paso County's House District 15 by nearly 70% of the vote. Here's a sidenote of trivia: HD-15 is the same ultra-safe Republican House seat briefly occupied by anti-tax crusader (and now convicted tax cheat) Douglas Bruce, who was appointed to HD-15 after it was vacated by now-Senate President Bill Cadman. Bruce's abrasive personality wasn't compatible with service as a lawmaker (to put it mildly), and he was swiftly ousted in a primary by Mark Waller in 2008. Waller left the seat one term early to unsuccessfully run for Attorney General, opening the way for Klingenschmitt.

Rep. Klingenschmitt has yet to reveal himself in committee hearings and floor speeches as the same guy who makes–no small feat–some of looniest statements available on Youtube, but that's only because he hasn't had the chance yet. At every such opportunity as the legislative session gets going, we expect Democrats to be on hand with recording devices. Our personal prediction is that this is a man pathologically unable to contain himself, and he is going to take the offensive lunacy within the Republican caucus to embarrassing new lows.

The next report will be from the House Health, Insurance and Environment Committee. Stay tuned!

Westboro Baptist’s Pathetic Capitol Protest Underway

A photo sent to us of the scene at the West Steps of the Colorado state capitol building a short while ago–the always-classy, possibly inbred congregation of Topeka, Kansas' Westboro Baptist Church going through the motions of another feeble shockfest:

Westboro

So, that's news: God hates 420 too? A new addition to the repertoire for Colorado we assume! As readers know, the Westboro Baptist Church short bus is due next week in Pueblo as well, so it makes sense they'd make some special signs just for us. It's actually maybe even a little bit flattering–and we suppose if they have to hate on something, it's better to hate an inanimate object.

And…that's all the attention we care to give these sad little people today.

Westboro Baptist Church to Picket Pueblo Courthouse

(Why don't they just go to hell? – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

SUNDAY POLS UPDATE: Pueblo Chieftain:

The release uses a number of derogatory terms toward the gay community and specifically mentions Pueblo County Clerk and Recorder Gilbert “Bo” Ortiz saying he, “Couldn’t move fast enough to start marrying fags,” and use that as an impetus for their planned protest.

The release also states, “Same-sex marriage dooms nations,” and that Pueblo County “foams at the mouth” to marry gay people, among other things.

The Westboro Baptist Church group routinely travels across the country picketing against gay marriage and other highly contentious things such as military funerals, and are often met with much opposition wherever they go.

Upon hearing the news, citizens of Pueblo mobilized on Facebook and began making plans for a counter-protest for that day.

—–

Westboro Baptist Church, well-known for picketing the funerals of soldiers to protest "gay-friendly" military policies, is now scheduling a picket December 29 at the Pueblo Courthouse to protest the hundreds of gay and lesbian couples married by County Clerk and Recorder Gilbert "Bo" Ortiz.

The founder of WBC , Fred Phelps, passed away last spring , and his family members have been leaving the church.  Nevertheless, there are apparently a core of true believers willing to travel to Pueblo to keep their church's name, and their homophobic cause, in the news. 

The language of this flyer is of someone clearly both fascinated and repelled by gay sex. "Crack in the dyke", "forcing this….sin down the throat", "angel-gagging drivel", etc. 

I predict a hostile reception for WBC, and that the number of counter-protesters at the Pueblo Courthouse will far outnumber the WBC haters. Pueblo, is, by and large, a tolerant, live-and-let-live town, which elected an openly lesbian House Representative, Daneya Esgar,  this year. Colorado legislators passed a bill allowing civil unions in 2013, and it took effect last May. 

Puebloans are also unlikely to allow an organization which pickets the funerals of soldiers to publicize itself in the Home of Heroes.Further, the WBC picket attempt is likely to alienate Republican moderate and independent voters, who have only reluctantly been dragged along on the Pueblo GOP quest to smear Clerk Ortiz, accusing him of voter fraud and discrimination, in actions and lawsuits. The WBC picket will, I predict, be a gigantic, oozing black eye for the Pueblo GOP. 

So y'all come on down to Pueblo for a wintry picnic on the Courthouse Grounds. WBC will provide the fire and brimstone- maybe. 

ENDA Dies Without A Peep From Mike Coffman

Rep. Mike Coffman (R).

Rep. Mike Coffman (R).

Via LGBT (mostly "L") community blog Autostraddle:

When last we checked in with the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), things were a little rocky. The Senate had just passed a version that extended employment protection to transgender people, but many LGBT rights groups felt that the language was too broad in light of the Hobby Lobby ruling. In the House, Rep. Jared Polis hoped to force a vote on a version with fewer religious exemptions. However, ENDA’s long journey through Congress came to an end last Wednesday, when it was left off the 2015 defense spending bill in a 7-3 vote in the House Rules Committee.

With gay marriage legal in over half of the United States, it might be easy to forget that in 29 states, there are still no employment protections for LGBT people. In Wisconsin, New York, and New Hampshire, there are employment protections in place based on sexual orientation but not gender identity. In a report by the Center for American Progress (CAP), “1 in 10 LGB workers report having been fired from a job because they were lesbian, gay, or bisexual. As many as 47% of transgender people reported being fired, not hired, or denied a promotion because of their gender identity.” Additionally, the report found that LGBT people of color were fired at a higher rate than their white counterparts.

As we discussed earlier this month, Republican supporters of the federal Employment Non Discrimination Act (ENDA) sent a letter to Speaker John Boehner urging the House to take up the measure as part of the national defense funding bill then up for debate. That letter notably did not include the signature of Rep. Mike Coffman of Colorado, whose alleged change of heart on ENDA was a major component of Coffman's dramatic reinvention since redistricting in 2011–from staunch conservative into a moderate supporter of a variety of progressive causes he previously opposed.

With ENDA now dead in the lame-duck session, chances of passage obviously dim as the new, redder 114th Congress takes office next month:

Now that ENDA’s dead, there’s been a push to start the legislation process again with a better bill and a better strategy. This past Wednesday, the Center for American Progress (CAP) held an event that featured keynote speaker Sen. Jeff Merkley, who was the main champion of ENDA in the Senate. In his address, Merkley pledged to introduce a new, more comprehensive bill, which he called the “Equality Act of 2015…”

Will this bill pass? Rep. Mark Takano, a panelist at the event, acknowledged that it probably won’t get through Congress any time soon, at least not while it’s still controlled by Republicans.

We're not so naive as to think ENDA had a tremendously better chance of passing in the lame-duck session than it will in the next two years of even more lopsided Republican control of Congress, but this was clearly the time to try. That's why most of the bill's Republican co-sponsors at least made an effort to get it into consideration before the 113th Congress adjourned. Remember, ENDA isn't radical policy: an admittedly compromise version of ENDA passed the U.S. Senate with solid bipartisan support. Here in Colorado, ENDA has been the status quo since 2007 when Gov. Bill Ritter signed it into law. To most Coloradans, nothing in ENDA sounds controversial, because it's been the law for almost eight years.

Will Coffman have another chance to make good on his election-year pledge? Probably. But he had one here–arguably the best he'll have before the next election–and he did not take it. For those skeptical that Coffman's reinvention is authentic and not political calculation, it's not very encouraging.

“Winning Marriage”–Insight From America’s Civil Rights Frontier

cover2

A press advisory Wednesday announced a book launch tour coming through Denver next week of interest to anyone who has followed the political sea change in the last couple of years on the issue of marriage equality:

Marc Solomon, the national campaign director for Freedom to Marry and veteran marriage strategist, continues his national tour in Denver to promote Winning Marriage: The Inside Story of How Same-Sex Couples Took on the Politicians and Pundits – and Won. The book, with a foreword by Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, has received critical acclaim from Bob Woodward, Dee Dee Myers, and Sen. Tammy Baldwin. As a senior political strategist for the marriage movement for more than a decade, Solomon takes readers inside the White House, the Supreme Court, governors' offices and state capitols, as well as into the war rooms of marriage campaigns throughout the country, showing how the campaign for marriage equality has been waged and how it has prevailed.  Solomon chronicles the indispensable role of Tim Gill, as well as the Denver-based Gill Foundation and the Gill Action Fund, in bringing about the victories secured over the last decade.

You can attend this free event next Monday, December 8 at 6:30PM at the Museum of Contemporary Art-Denver. RSVP here.

As the issue of marriage equality for LGBT couples has come full circle from painful defeats to sweeping victory across America, the full story of the tremendous efforts to achieve this–both public and behind the scenes–hasn't really been told. Some recent books on the subject, like Jo Becker's Forcing the Spring: Inside the Fight for Marriage Equality, were widely criticized for leaving out a number of principal figures in the long battle for marriage equality. Marc Solomon's book is meant in part to remedy that error for posterity, with a definitive first-hand insider account. Writing of Denver philanthropist Tim Gill's early commitment in Winning Marriage:

Thankfully, we had one donor, Tim Gill, who was in for the long haul, knew that losses were part of any social movement, and had cultivated a community of donors who invested in LGBT equality and looked to Tim for leadership. Gill, a Denver-based tech entrepreneur, had dedicated much of his time to the cause of equality after Colorado voters passed a horribly anti-gay statewide constitutional amendment in 1992. He sold his company and took a substantial portion of its profits–$250 million–to establish the Gill Foundation to invest in organizations working for LGBT equality. After the multiple losses at the ballot in 2004, he turned his attention to political giving, establishing the Gill Action Fund to back advocacy campaigns and candidates advancing our agenda and–as he liked to put it-"punish the wicked." He'd hired Patrick Guerriero, the gay former legislator and mayor from Massachusetts who had most recently run Log Cabin Republicans, to head up Gill Action.

Patrick, who had been helping us in Massachusetts for some time and who had become a trusted friend and mentor, called me very early on after the loss to tell me he and Tim Gill had my back and they were ready to help. We came up with a plan: Patrick would reach out to the advisers to several of the largest gay donors in the country–Jon Stryker, David Bohnett, Jim Hormel and others–and get them to Boston to listen to my pitch. And I would come up with a detailed plan and budget, get a few Massachusetts political leaders to meet with the assembled group, and pull together an event with MassEquality's major donors. I arranged for Governor Patrick to Come to our office for a meeting, and he did a great job of explaining his commitment to the fight and support for MassEquality's strategy to win. At the Massachusetts donor event, Patrick Guerriero spoke of Tim Gill's and his unflinching commitment to my leadership and to the fight in Massachusetts and asked them to redouble their investments.

By all accounts, the relatively recent shift in America from general public opposition to marriage equality to overwhelming public support today is the result of committed donors and activists who, in response to defeats in the previous decade, rebuilt the communications strategy on this issue from the ground up. By finding the right message to persuade ordinary Americans that marriage equality would neither devalue their own marriages nor harm society, patiently creating space for empathy instead of casual bigotry, one of the greatest victories for civil rights since the 1960s has finally been achieved.

Locals should take pride that one of the central institutions of this movement is right here in Colorado.

How Many Colorado Republicans Attended “WallBuilders?”

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas).

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas).

This past weekend, a major political conference for religious conservative state lawmakers took place in Dallas, Texas called the WallBuilders Pro-Family Legislators Conference. Leading LGBT blog Towleroad reported last Friday that the keynote speaker was none other than "Tea Party" darling Texas Sen. Ted Cruz:

Does Sen. Ted Cruz believe AIDS is God's punishment for being gay?

Does Cruz believe that government should regulate homosexuality and that public schools are using anti-bullying laws to indoctriinate children into homosexuality?

Does Cruz believe that we need more hate and less tolerance in the world?

If not, perhaps Cruz should explain why he's headlining a legislative conference in Dallas this weekend hosted by a group whose founder has said each and every one of those things.

Also reportedly at the WallBuilders conference this weekend was Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, and a large number of Republican state legislators from across the nation. We haven't heard yet how many Colorado lawmakers went to Texas this weekend, but as you can see in the promo video for this year's WallBuilders conference, it's quite popular with Colorado General Assembly Republicans:

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Here's a photo (right) from last year's WallBuilders conference, where you can see Colorado GOP Senators Scott Renfroe, Mark Scheffel, and Kevin Grantham, as well as Rep. Libby Szabo of Arvada.

WallBuilders is led by a well-known religious right activist named David Barton. Barton has his own page in the Southern Poverty Law Center's Extremist Files:

A fervent homophobe, Barton has claimed that gay people die “decades earlier” than others and have more than 500 partners apiece in their lifetimes. On his WallBuilders radio broadcast, he’s flagrantly misled listeners by saying that the “leading pediatric association in America” has cautioned educators against providing education about homosexuality. But the American College of Pediatricians that Barton referred to has only a couple of hundred members and is, in fact, a right-wing breakaway group from the 60,000-member American Academy of Pediatrics, which is the real “leading pediatric association in America.” The group he cited split with the American Academy of Pediatrics explicitly because it had taken an official stand that there is no harm associated with same-sex parenting.

Some of Barton’s claims are mind-boggling to any reasonably well-educated person. For example, in his version of history, the founding fathers “already had the entire debate on creation and evolution,” and chose creationism. Reality check: Charles Darwin didn’t publish his theory of evolution in The Origin of Species until 1859, more than half a century after the founding fathers were active. Barton also has asserted that the American Revolution was fought to free slaves. “That’s why we said we want to separate from Britain, so we can end slavery,” Barton said. Actually, that’s ridiculous. Many of the founding fathers were slaveholders, slavery is acknowledged (although it is not named) in the constitution that they wrote, and the British Empire outlawed slavery three decades before the United States did…

Barton still retains some influence, but only in the most extreme and uneducated segments of the Christian Right. Virtually all serious conservatives have repudiated him, and his chances of making a comeback seem remote, to be kind, although he sounds just as glib and sure as himself as ever.

The "extreme and uneducated segments of the Christian Right?" Sounds like the perfect choice for our new GOP Senate leadership to take direction from! Did new Senate Majority Leader Mark Scheffel attend Barton's conference again this year? What about Kevin Grantham, now the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee? Given that LGBT equality is an issue Republicans in Colorado generally ran from this election season, it would be very interesting to know how many of our own legislators went to Dallas this weekend to get fired up for the next round of the "culture wars."

Our assumption until we hear more: too many.