It’s beginning to look like a good time to be gay in the state of Colorado.
Two bills aimed at granting extended legal rights for same-sex couples that they have been historically denied are gaining traction in the state capitol. And really, it’s about time.
Last week, the state Senate held a formal vote and gave its approval to a bill extending health benefits for same-sex partners of state employees.
Likewise, the state House gave tentative approval to a bill that would ease the process for members of the gay and lesbian community to leave property to their partners or even to visit them in the hospital.
The initial success of these bills — for there still is quite a long distance to go — marks a dramatic shift in what has been up to this point a shameful history of discrimination in the Centennial state.
Nearly two decades ago, Colorado voters approved Amendment 2, which barred any local government from taking any legislative, executive or judicial action to protect the rights of gays from discrimination based on their sexual orientation. For this wonderfully bigoted piece of legislation we can thank the same people that we can thank for almost every blockheaded argument against equal rights for gay citizens — the city of Colorado Springs, which is home to several hatemongering religious organizations, including James Dobson’s Focus on the Family (although I hear he’s retired now, thank God).
Thankfully, the law was never allowed to be implemented, as gay rights groups challenged the bill immediately out of the gate, causing a district court to grant an injunction on the grounds of the bill’s possible unconstitutionality — a ruling later made by both the state and federal Supreme Court.
Fast forward a few years and things did not get any better for our gay and lesbian neighbors.
In 2006, Colorado voters were given a chance to redeem themselves via Referendum I, a measure that would have granted civil unions to same-sex couples.
Unfortunately, the Colorado Springs mentality proved again too strong and countered common sense.
Instead of passing Ref. I, voters turned instead to Amendment 43, which defined marriage in law as exclusively between a man and a woman.
While I whole-heartedly believe it is any church’s right to deny marriage in their respective house of God to folks who do not fit in their personal interpretation of the Bible, I can’t think of anything less appropriate than the government — which is supposed to be independent of churches — allowing an entire segment of the population to be marginalized by a highly subjective religious argument.
Sadly, though, this one did not and will not be overturned — at least not in the near future. And thus, Colorado’s shameful legacy lives on.
Even more distressing, though, is the fact that we aren’t alone.
According to The New York Times, 30 states have passed gay marriage bans, the most recent of which came in Arizona, Florida and California. Only two states — Massachusetts and Connecticut — currently recognize them, though New York and Rhode Island do recognize all marriage ceremonies performed in other states, regardless of whether the spouses are of different sex.
Finally, however, the lawmakers of Colorado are starting to live up to the ideals of the state and national constitutions.
Religious views or personal bias should have no sway over who gets legal rights. Regardless of sexual orientation, we are all people and citizens and, as such, are entitled to equal protection under the law.
It’s taken some time, but it’s looking like many of our elected representatives are finally acknowledging this fact. Hopefully, in the upcoming weeks, they continue on this reasonable course and grant gays and lesbians at least a truncated version of the rights they deserve and maybe even lay the groundwork for true equality in the near future.
You’re becoming a progressive state, Colorado. Don’t let us down.
Editorials Editor Sean Reed is a senior political science major. His column appears Mondays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.