Tim Sagen and Ken Hoole pay taxes, help their neighbors and
attend church, just like many other Fort Collins residents. A
difference arises when they cannot receive domestic benefits when
they have the legal documents.
Sagen and Hoole are concerned about the future of their union
and other same-sex marriages across the nation with the recent
introduction of the Federal Marriage Amendment to change the
“This would be the first time that a constitutional amendment
would be used to deny citizens their rights,” said Hoole, a retired
social worker and ardent supporter for gay rights. “Contrary to
what Allard says the amendment would negate the Vermont Civil Union
Act,” said Sagen, a retired engineer and also a proponent of gay
rights. On May 21, 2003, Rep. Marilyn Musgrave, R-Colo., along with
representatives from various states introduced to the House
Committee the Federal Marriage Amendment. It would amend the
constitution to read: “Marriage in the United States shall consist
only of the union of a man and a woman.”
This has many same-sex couples concerned. Currently, if a gay
couple wants to marry, they can go to Vermont and have a civil
union ceremony and be eligible for domestic benefits within
However, if they choose to move to another state, the civil
union and the benefits are subject to the laws of the state in
which the couple lives. Although Sagen and Hoole had been a couple
for 34 years and had a ceremony of commitment in 1970, they decided
to have a civil union ceremony in Vermont in 2001 as well.
If they choose to live in Vermont, they would be eligible to
receive domestic benefits such as health care, compensation or
insurance. They would also be eligible to receive the same
treatment as heterosexuals in terms of state tax, lawsuits, probate
or property transfers.
Because they have chosen to live in Colorado, which does not
have any laws governing civil unions, they are not eligible for
“Civil unions in Vermont are a good step toward the recognition
toward couples, but it’s a far cry from full recognition and the
benefits that would accrue from marriage.” Sagen said.
Some opponents of the amendment say the civil union laws that
are currently issued state-by-state would be subject to federal
laws and therefore would go unrecognized.
“I think it is wrong,” said Randy McCrillis, director of the
Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Student Services on campus.
“It’s a smoke screen. It’s a diversion from other important issues
like the economy. Our energies should be spent on the economy and
creating more jobs.”
According to an online report by the Catholic News Service,
support for the amendment is growing among the Catholic community.
The Administrative Committee of the U.S. Conference of Catholic
Bishops in Washington, D.C., is in support of the Federal Marriage
Amendment. “We offer general support for a federal marriage
amendment to the U.S. Constitution,” the report said.
In Fort Collins, the Catholic Church is also showing its support
for the amendment.
“The Catholic Bishops and (the) Pope believe marriage is between
a man and a woman. That is the basic structure,” said Father Don
Willete, a priest at John the 23rd University Center. “Marriage is
the key building block of community and society.”
He continued to point out that practicing celibacy is part of
living a healthy single lifestyle.
“Catholics are strong in supporting a single lifestyle,” Willet
He also agreed with The Administrative Committee in Washington,
D.C., that gays should not face unjust discrimination.
“I would want to affirm in any way the rights of gay people with
dignity and value for every person in our community. This means a
policy of inclusion verses any kind of exclusion from the parish
life of the community. There are no second class citizens and no
rejects in our community,” Willet said.
Locally, the Muslim community has not dealt with gay members in
its community or the request for a Muslim gay marriage.
“From the Islamic point of view, homosexuality is the result of
social influences and that everyone is born heterosexual,” said
Shakir Muhammad, outreach representative for the Islamic Center in
Although Muhammad was not completely familiar with the Federal
Marriage Amendment, he said the Islamic community would probably
support it because it states marriage is between one man and one
“From the Islamic point of view, homosexuality is forbidden,” he
For same-sex couples like Sagen and Hoole, the security of
having domestic benefits and a ceremony that is legally recognized
by the state of Colorado could prove to be a long wait.
As the debate about same-sex union thickens in Washington, D.C.,
and more organizations are coming out in favor or against the
amendment, the process could be a lengthy one.
Reading from a prepared statement Sagen pointed out that ”
promoting stable, mutually supportive civil unions among same-sex
couples would be beneficial to the community and the state. People
in committed relationships are less likely to become dependent on
the government in old age and in times of declining health.”