All-Night Celebration As Civil Unions Law Takes Effect

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"The shot": Fran and Anna Simon kiss after their civil union ceremony. Photo by Evan Semon, Out Front Colorado

If you were part of last night's partying related to the first legal civil union ceremonies for LGBT couples in the state of Colorado, chances are you're not even awake yet (unless you haven't gone to bed). But here's a roundup of initial coverage on the first day of the Colorado Civil Union Act in effect.

Much more after the jump…

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PPP: Hillary Bests Hickenlooper in 2016, Gun Safety Still Popular

Lots of interesting poll results from Public Policy Polling today, the second half of their recent survey work in Colorado. PPP is generally considered a Democratic-leaning firm, but their performance in recent elections has been quite good. A study by Fordham University rated PPP the most accurate pollster nationally of the 2012 elections. From today's memo on a number of questions, two standouts: lackluster support for a presidential run in 2016 by Gov. John Hickenlooper, and resilient popularity of gun safety bills passed by the legislature.

Although he is a strong favorite for reelection as Governor next year, there's not a lot of enthusiasm in Colorado for a 2016 John Hickenlooper Presidential bid. Only 21% of voters in the state think he should run to 65% who think he should not, and even among Democrats just 30% would like to see him run with 48% dissenting. Hickenlooper does hold a narrow 47/45 advantage over Rand Paul and Marco Rubio in hypothetical match ups. But even without the benefit of home state advantage Hillary Clinton does slightly better than Hickenlooper in the state, leading Paul 48/45 and Rubio 48/44…

Coloradans support stronger gun laws in general (49/44) and an assault weapons ban in particular (49/45). Latinos, who Republicans need to be more competitive with if they're going to win key statewide races in Colorado, support stronger gun laws by a 59/32 margin. We didn't bother testing support for background checks in the state given the overwhelming support for them everywhere.

“Republicans are looking for a path forward after losing 6 elections in a row for President, Governor, and the Senate in Colorado,” said Dean Debnam, President of Public Policy Polling. “But being on the wrong side of public opinion about hot button issues like gun control and gay marriage isn’t going to get them out of the wilderness.”

We're not surprised to see soft support for a run for President by Hickenlooper, and we wouldn't necessarily count it all as sentiment against him. As PPP's earlier released polling showed, Hickenlooper's unfavorable rating has shot up in the last year as he has been compelled to engage on issues with negatives on both sides of the political spectrum–upsetting conservatives on gun safety and liberals with his questionable support for oil and gas drilling. Despite that, Hickenlooper is still well above water in terms of favorability, and Republicans have no candidate in Hickenlooper's league with which to challenge him. There are a host of reasons why Hickenlooper may not be viewed as the best presidential candidate in 2016, but none of them look to be a threat to his re-election in 2014.

For Republicans, the enduring popularity of gun safety bills passed this year is nothing short of disastrous. After having put all of their messaging eggs in this basket this legislative session, the fact that gun safety retains this much support even after Republicans threw the kitchen sink at Democrats portends a very bleak 2014 for them. Not only have they failed to be persuasive, further credibility damage awaits them when those bills take effect in a few weeks–and the outlandish consequences Republicans warned of fail to materialize.

John Suthers, Meet The Wrong Side of History

The Denver Post's Allison Sherry reported moments ago:

Colorado’s Republican Attorney General John Suthers signed onto a brief that urges the Supreme Court to uphold California’s Proposition 8, which bans gay marriage.

Reports Sherry, Attorney General John Suthers claims to be taking this action in defense of Colorado's Amendment 43, passed in 2006 amending our state's constitution to define marriage as "between one man and one woman." Since the passage of Amendment 43 nearly seven years ago, public opinion in this state (and the party affiliation of the state's chief executive) have shifted solidly in support of equality for gays and lesbians. Just last week, Gov. John Hickenlooper signed the Colorado Civil Union Act into law in an historic ceremony at the History Colorado Center.

But today, John Suthers' discordant act against the same equality most of the state is celebrating? To say it stands out in ugly relief, a mark against him any time this man ever aspires to higher office, is an understatement.

Colorado Civil Union Act Signing Today

UPDATE #2: A message from Gov. John Hickenlooper to LGBT advocacy group One Colorado supporters:

Just moments ago, I had the incredible honor of signing civil unions into law.

It was a historic moment for Colorado, which now joins a tide of hope sweeping the nation that affirms all couples should have the protections they need to care for each other and their families…

Today, we should all take a moment to reflect on the critical progress we have made, as well as the powerful difference it will make in the lives of thousands of families across our wonderful state.

Congratulations, and thank you for making Colorado a better place for each and every one of us. 

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UPDATE: The photo for the history books, courtesy One Colorado:

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Via 9NEWS' Brandon Rittiman, they've got the certificates ready, though May 1st is still a few weeks away:

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The Crayon Plan

Hello, Mr. Hispanic person? I’d like to discuss why my party needs your support in order to win elections.

Hispanics don't really like us. We should try to make them like us better. We've taken to calling it the Crayon Plan, because while it looks colorful, ultimately Republicans aren't going to take it seriously.

Yesterday, our friends at "The Fix" outlined some of the key points from the "Growth and Opportunity Project":

If Hispanic Americans hear that the GOP doesnВ’t want them in the United States, they wonВ’t pay attention to our next sentence. It doesnВ’t matter what we say about education, jobs or the economy; if Hispanics think that we do not want them here, they will close their ears to our policies. In essence, Hispanic voters tell us our PartyВ’s position on immigration has become a litmus test, measuring whether we are meeting them with a welcome mat or a closed door.

Sounds nice, don't it? Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus was so excited about it that he announced a big $10 million door-to-door "outreach" program. Now, if they could just figure out what they are actually going to say to Hispanic voters.

Today, Allison Sherry of the Denver Post shows us how implementing this Crayon Plan is going to be a lot harder than scribbling it together in the first place:

To understand the difficulty in passing comprehensive immigration reform on Capitol Hill, just ask Colorado's four House Republicans how they would tackle the problem.

Each has a different solution…

Colorado Republicans all said they believed in strengthening the border and as well as instituting some sort of guest-worker program, but the four were split on what to do with the existing illegal immigrants living in the United States, including those brought to the U.S. as children.

To be sure, Republicans need to do a better job in reaching out to Hispanic voters if they ever hope to start winning again. But there's still that one little asterisk in the plan that cannot be erased: The Tea Party. Even if Republican elected officials agree that they need a more moderate immigration reform plan, many are still too afraid of gaining a primary challenge from the far-right. It's an issue they need to address in order to win a General Election, but the slightest misstep will cost them in a Primary.

 

Bill O’Reilly Melts Down on Denver Post Editor

Last night, Denver Post editorial page editor Curtis Hubbard went on FOX News' O'Reilly Factor, to further discuss his column last weekend blasting host Bill O'Reilly for his repeated and obvious inferences, covered in this space, that Colorado House Speaker Mark Ferrandino's sexual preference played a role in the death of a GOP-sponsored bill this year mandating long prison terms for particular first-time child sex offenders. Hubbard's column Sunday argued that "O'Reilly's fear-mongering should offend all Coloradans. He was saying 'gay,' but what he wanted his listeners to hear was 'pervert-pedophile.'"

As Media Matters for America reports, O'Reilly doesn't like being called out as a hater.

Fox News' Bill O'Reilly berated a guest on his show, calling him a "smear merchant" and a "charlatan," for accurately accusing him of attempting to depict a gay Colorado lawmaker as being lenient towards child molesters…

In his March 10 column, Hubbard condemned O'Reilly for repeatedly citing Rep. Ferrandino's sexual orientation while discussing the lawmaker's opposition to Jessica's Law, a measure deemed unnecessary by law enforcement experts and victims' advocates that would impose a 25-year minimum sentence on those found guilty of sexually assaulting children.

O'Reilly's rant turned decidedly nasty as he called Hubbard as a "ridiculous person" and a "smear merchant," and launched into a tirade of personal ad hominem attacks:

O'REILLY: I described Ferrandino to the audience because the audience doesn't know who the heck he is and I did it in the context of what his priorities are. His priorities are civil unions, alright, which you guys are going to have pretty soon out there, and legalizing marijuana, which you already have out there. And he's a gay marriage proponent, as you know. So I said he are Ferrandino's priorities, here's what he spends his time on, alright? And Jessica's Law he doesn't want…

O'REILLY: I didn't impugn his character at all. I said what his priorities are as Speaker of the House. Look, I'm going to post this on BillOReilly.com, the whole thing, so people can see what a charlatan you are. [Pols emphasis]

Beginning with O'Reilly's interview with Colorado Rep. Libby Szabo, the sponsor of the bill in question, it is impossible to deny the clear implication by O'Reilly that Speaker Ferrandino killed "Jessica's Law" in retaliation for the death of the civil unions bill in 2012, and that his sexual preference somehow makes Ferrandino unqualified to "protect the children." O'Reilly went to great lengths to explain Ferrandino's supposed motives, eagerly supported by Rep. Szabo, who accused Speaker Ferrandino of "obviously protecting somebody" by killing the bill. There's absolutely no mistaking the impression O'Reilly wanted to leave with his viewers.

Bottom line: Curtis Hubbard didn't take on one of America's biggest conservative media icons out of partisan spite. He did it because Bill O'Reilly crossed a line, and made allegations against Colorado's Speaker of the House that have no place in civil debate about these issues. The fact that nobody considers O'Reilly an unbiased source of information is beside the point. Such a contemptibly low blow cannot go unchallenged, and we wish there were more Republicans standing up to condemn these smears–from O'Reilly and from Rep. Szabo.

In the meantime, we applaud Hubbard for taking this real "smear merchant" to task.

O’Reilly Backpedals on Ferrandino Smears, Weakly and Too Late

Video of the O'Reilly Factor courtesy Media Matters:

Yesterday, FOX News' Bill O'Reilly responded to a blistering opinion piece in the Denver Post this weekend, where editorial page editor Curtis Hubbard responds to recent segments from O'Reilly about Colorado House Speaker Mark Ferrandino regarding civil unions and the death of a GOP bill insituting lengthy minimum sentences for first-time child sex offenders. Hubbard says that "O'Reilly's fear-mongering should offend all Coloradans. He was saying 'gay,' but what he wanted his listeners to hear was 'pervert-pedophile.'"

O'Reilly is hurt by this accusation, folks. Hurt.

O'REILLY: We described the speaker as "openly gay" because Americans don't know who he is and that description is used in almost every article ever written about him. And the reason we brought up civil unions is because Ferrandino objected to that vote being sabotaged by Republicans a few years ago, then he turned around and used the same technique to table Jessica's Law.

As we've recounted in this space, O'Reilly said much more than that. In these segments attacking Colorado House Speaker Mark Ferrandino, O'Reilly's obvious implication was that Ferrandino had sent "Jessica's Law" to its death in the State Affairs "kill committee" as retaliation for Republicans killing the civil unions bill in State Affairs during last year's special session of the legislature. As everyone in Colorado knows, Democrats swept the GOP from power in 2012, which is the only "retaliation" that mattered. What's more, Colorado already has very tough sentencing laws for crimes of this nature, sufficiently that both prosecutors and victims' rights groups opposed the bill.

Perhaps the worst was O'Reilly's interview with GOP state Rep. Libby Szabo, where Szabo flat-out claimed to O'Reilly that Ferrandino was "obviously protecting somebody" with the killing of "Jessica's Law." Between that statement and everything O'Reilly said about Ferrandino's sexual preference and motives, it's unmistakable what impression he wanted his millions of conservative viewers to have.

O'Reilly should just own up to these allegations. Whatever he says now, he left no ambiguity about them.

Civil Unions: A Long Legislative Journey That Ends Today

FOX 31's Eli Stokols:

On Monday morning, the Colorado House of Representatives did something it has never done before, debating the civil unions bill that’s been introduced for three straight years.

The debate could have happened at the end of last year’s session, after civil unions survived three successive hearings before GOP-controlled committees, but then Speaker Frank McNulty shut down the House floor on the session’s penultimate day, effectively running out the clock on the bill and 30 others.

“This marks the first day in my time here that the full House will debate civil unions,” said the sponsor, Rep. Mark Ferrandino, D-Denver, who became the current House Speaker after Democrats swept competitive statehouse races last fall just months after the legislative meltdown over civil unions.

“This bill is about love, family and equality under the law.”

Final passage in the state House of Representatives of the Colorado Civil Union Act today marks the completion of a legislative campaign to enact basic rights for the state's gay and lesbian couples that began in 2006, when the Democratic-controlled legislature sent Referendum I to the ballot bypassing GOP Gov. Bill Owens. That referendum narrowly failed, and a constitutional gay marriage ban, Amendment 43, passed that year: even as Democrats celebrated the second in what would become an unparalleled string of electoral victories in 2006, this election was a also a nadir for LGBT equality advocates in Colorado.

Since then, there have been many changes.

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O’Reilly Smearing of Mark Ferrandino Continues

UPDATE #3: Let the record show that KDVR FOX 31 is not the national FOX News. Eli Stokols:

In the segment, the reporter demands that Ferrandino explain how he could oppose mandatory sentences for first-time child molesters and cites a few cases in which predators have done minimal jail time.

But it’s O’Reilly’s repeated mentioning of Ferrandino’s sexual orientation, which would seem to have little relevance to an issue of criminal justice, in both on-air segments that has Colorado Democrats upset. [Pols emphasis]

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UPDATE #2: Colorado Democratic Party chairman Rick Palacio hits back hard at Bill O'Reilly moments ago:

Republicans are attacking Ferrandino for opposing a bill that would tie the hands of prosecutors who are trying to convict child predators. Colorado has some of the toughest penalties in the country for convicted child molesters, and our district attorneys have flexibility to make the best prosecution possible in each case. Colorado prosecutors and victims' rights groups stand with Speaker Ferrandino for smart and tough law enforcement, but that isn't stopping Republicans.
 
Instead, they are lobbing some of the most vile, homophobic attacks you will ever see. [Pols emphasis] Bill O'Reilly and his Republican allies are insinuating that our State House Speaker protects child predators because he is gay. If there is a more vicious smear they could try, it's hard to imagine what it could even be.

It's a relief to see this isn't being taken passively. With O'Reilly and co-smear Rep. Libby Szabo, it should not be.
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UPDATE: FOX News-dogging Media Matters for America weighs in:

During the February 22 edition of The O'Reilly Factor, O'Reilly criticized Ferrandino for opposing "Jessica's Law," a measure that would impose a 25-year sentence on those found guilty of sexually assaulting children. Law enforcement experts and victims' advocates in Colorado have deemed Jessica's Law unnecessary, noting that current Colorado laws "already go beyond what Jessica's law mandates."

During the segment, O'Reilly joined Colorado Rep. Libby Szabo (R-27) in attempting to link Ferrandino's opposition to the bill to his homosexuality and support for civil unions. O'Reilly also promised to hold Ferrandino "personally responsible," threatening that his life would soon "take a turn for the worse…"

And now, Bill O'Reilly is doing his very worst to keep that promise.
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Think Progress picks up on a story we started covering over a week ago, the newfound interest from host Bill O'Reilly in Speaker of the Colorado House Mark Ferrandino–now the target of a campaign on O'Reilly's show linking Ferrandino's support for civil unions with both his personal life and the killing of a perennial GOP bill pertaining to child predators. As posted this morning: 

As expected, Fox News host Bill O’Reilly is continuing his smear campaign against Colorado House Speaker Mark Ferrandino (D), who is openly gay, because of his opposition to instituting “Jessica’s Law,” which imposes excessive mandatory sentences for first-time offenders of child molesters…Colorado already has harsh sentencing for sex offenders and nobody — not even the law enforcement community or victims’ advocates groups — supports changing the laws. But that hasn’t stopped O’Reilly from pursuing his campaign against Ferrandino, who he plans to hold “personally responsible” for the bill’s defeat and for “protecting” perpetrators.

Last night, a segment aired of Speaker Ferrandino being confronted by a FOX News crew outside his home: 

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Civil Unions: Automatic Upgrade to Marriage?

There's lots of news to be had today on gay rights.

First, the Colorado State House Judiciary Committee today heard arguments on the Civil Unions bill. The bill is expected to pass easily through committee votes and then on the floor with some Republican support.

But the big news for Coloradans looking forward to more gay rights in the state may have come from the U.S. Department of Justice's amicus brief today in the Supreme Court review of California's Proposition 8. In it the Obama Administration argues that denying the name "marriage" to gay couples while providing domestic partner benefits equivalent to marriage fails any test of scrutiny the Court might choose – essentially, that marriage status should be conferred in states who offer civil union status to LGBT couples. Now, Amendment 43 bars this recognition, but presumably that would be overturned if the Supreme Court agrees to the Administration's argument.

Never Mind, Marilyn Musgrave Still a Throwback

FOX 31's Eli Stokols corrects what for a moment seemed very exciting news:

Finally, a concession from Marilyn Musgrave.

Or so it seemed for a short time on the website of the New York Times, which initially reported Wednesday that the former Colorado Congresswoman, who never officially conceded her 2008 defeat to Democrat Betsy Markey, had done a complete reversal on what has always been her signature issue: gay marriage.

But Musgrave, who sponsored a Constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage and famously said that there was no bigger threat to the country, tells FOX31 Denver that the report is flat-out wrong…

Prior to stridently anti-gay former Rep. Marilyn Musgrave's correction of this story, it had made the rounds as further evidence that Republicans were taking concrete steps to moderate on divisive social issues after years of electoral defeats. No such luck, corrects the New York Times: 

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Colorado Deserves Better Than Libby Szabo

Two local reporters follow up the story of Rep. Libby Szabo's appearance last Friday on the O'Reilly Factor, where she accused Colorado House Speaker Mark Ferrandino of "protecting someone" after the death of a bill in the House to mandate long prison terms for child sex offenders. Both stories thoroughly deconstruct the hysterical reaction from Republicans to the death of this bill, but there's a more important point we don't want lost.

Lynn Bartels of the Denver Post reports on the death of "Jessica's Law" and the subsequent reaction today, establishing critically that the bill actually had very little support–including opposition from law enforcement and victims' advocates such as the Colorado District Attorneys' Council and the Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault. According to a public defender specializing in sexual assault cases, Colorado law already allows for life sentences for the crimes covered by this bill. In addition to being an overreaction to something we already are very strict about in Colorado, absolutely nothing about the status quo or the proposed legislation justifies the hysterical anger being stoked about the bill's death.

FOX 31's Eli Stokols, writing about online meta-reaction to Bartels' story, explains why–and includes important details that Bartels, for whatever reason, omitted. 

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NOM To Steadman: We Resemble That Remark

Raw Story:

The National Organization of Marriage on Thursday accused the author of a civil unions bill of being contemptuous of religion after the Colorado lawmaker said Christian don’t have the right to discriminate against gay and lesbian individuals.

“Don’t claim religion as a reason the law should discriminate,” state Sen. Pat Steadman (D) said earlier this month. “We have laws against discrimination. Discrimination is banned in employment, and housing, and public accommodations, and so bakeries that serve the public aren’t supposed to look down their noses at one particular class of persons and say ‘we don’t sell cakes to you.’ It’s troubling, this discrimination. And it’s already illegal.”

“So, what to say to those who claim that religion requires them to discriminate?” the Colorado lawmaker continued. “I’ll tell you what I’d say: ‘Get thee to a nunnery!’ And live there then. Go live a monastic life away from modern society, away from people you can’t see as equals to yourself. Away from the stream of commerce where you may have to serve them or employ them or rent banquet halls to them.”

“Go some place and be as judgmental as you like. Go inside your church, establish separate water fountains in there if you want, but don’t claim that free exercise of religion requires the state of Colorado to establish separate water fountains for her citizens. That’s not what we’re doing here.”

The National Organization for Marriage responds:
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A GOP “Move To The Middle”–Wouldn’t That Be Nice?

UPDATE: The New York Times had an interesting story over the weekend about the GOP "establishment" throwing down the gauntlet with the "Tea Party" in 2014. We've discussed this on many occasions in this space, but it bears repeating: Republican attempts to kill their own Frankenstein is the gift that keeps on giving for Democrats.
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We want to acknowledge a well-intentioned editorial from The Denver Post on Friday, titled "A move to the middle for Colorado Republicans?" As our long-time readers know, this blog has accurately narrated for many years now as the Colorado Republican Party has alienated itself from the state's present and future majorities, with results increasingly undeniable in the form of five consecutive electoral defeats since 2004–even in years where the national political trends were strongly with Republicans, as was the case in 2010. We've been accused of celebrating this alienation, but the truth is, our warnings to the GOP have been sincere, and the consequences we have witnessed can very arguably be considered objectively bad. As Republicans have lost touch with the voters of Colorado, and lost elections, an honest representative viewpoint for conservatives in our politics–a viewpoint still very much prevalent among many of our state's citizens–has been undermined.

In the Denver Post's editorial Friday, a reported incremental change of heart on the part of a few Republican lawmakers on the ASSET legislation for undocumented students is celebrated as a "years overdue" "migration to the middle." They express hope for more such "migrations," on issues like civil unions for gays and lesbians, and (though they note it is unlikely) reducing gun violence. A truly moderate GOP, says the Post, might "be a voice for many Coloradans who hold centrist views that fall on the GOP side of the spectrum."

We want to be clear, as we have said so many times over the years, that we too would welcome a genuine move to the center by Colorado Republicans. We think that, partisan advantage notwithstanding, most Democrats would prefer to have less-unhinged conversations about the issues facing our state.

So it is really too bad that we have to pop the Post's bubble now.

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