Colo. voters may be asked to ax anti-gay amendment
March 28, 2012
DENVER (AP) — Two gay lawmakers want to ask voters to repeal a Colorado law that barred cities from passing anti-discrimination laws to protect gay people, a measure that was later ruled unconstitutional.
The proposal passed its first vote Tuesday, but it will likely face opposition in the full Senate because it includes questions about campaign finance laws that have been deemed unconstitutional, too. Those laws are no longer enforced, but they continue to be printed in the Colorado Constitution.
“Whether you agree or disagree with that, they’re dead letters. It’s extra pages being printed in our already too long state constitutional,” Democratic Sen. Pat Steadman, the sponsor of the proposal, told lawmakers before a vote.
The law involving gay people, known as Amendment 2, was initiated by voters and passed in 1992. It prompted calls for boycotts, conventions were canceled, and some called Colorado a hate state.
Four years later, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the law was unconstitutional.
Steadman became involved in politics because of the issue. He co-founded a group that sued to challenge the law’s constitutionality. This year, he’s sponsoring a bill to grant civil unions to same-sex couples.
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He said the 1992 law was “clearly a discriminatory matter.”
“Why should we keep those things on the books?” he said.
Democratic Rep. Mark Ferrandino, another gay lawmaker, will sponsor the bill if it reaches the House.
The proposal would ask voters to also erase from the state Constitution other voter-approved amendments deemed unconstitutional. One of them forbade people from contributing to campaigns if a relative had a contract with a government agency. Steadman also originally proposed striking an amendment that conflicts with a U.S. Supreme Court ruling saying corporations and unions can directly contribute unlimited amounts of money on elections.
Democratic Sen. Morgan Carroll took out that provision from Steadman’s bill, saying the so-called issue of “corporate personhood” is a new one that could later be overturned.
“It’s a novel theory and it’s one that I think is in flux and it’s not a given that it lasts,” she said.
That upset some lawmakers and Steadman said it can invite opposition from legislators who will argue the proposal tries to “pick and choose what sorts of things we want to cling to.”
Republican Sen. Kevin Lundberg, who voted no on Steadman’s measure, said voters should choose which laws deemed unconstitutional they want to erase from the Colorado Constitution.
“Put them before the people, but do it separately so the people can make targeted decisions,” he said.
Lundberg said he disagrees with the 1996 ruling declaring Amendment 2 unconstitutional.