DENVER — The Colorado House has rejected Louisville Democratic Rep. Paul Weissmann’s proposal to expand an anti-discrimination provision in the Legislature’s annual state budget bill to cover “sexual orientation” and “political affiliation.”
Each year, the budget measure states that “no moneys appropriated by this act shall knowingly be paid to any organization, business, firm, person, agency or club which places restrictions on employment or membership based on sex, race, age, marital status, creed, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, or physical handicap.”
Weissmann’s Wednesday effort to add “sexual orientation” to that list drew more fire, particularly from House Republicans, than his suggestion that “political affiliation” be included in the list.
House members voted 34-31 to keep Weissmann’s amendment out of the budget bill.
Highlands Ranch Republican Rep. Ted Harvey accused legislative Democrats of “pushing a homosexual agenda” onto businesses and religious institutions that contract to provide services or programs on the state’s behalf.
Harvey charged that Weissmann’s amendment would “put one individual’s moral views over another individual’s moral views” and that it could force an organization to hire someone with different religious values.
Rep. David Schultheis, R-Colorado Springs, criticized Weissmann for “pushing a major policy issue” in the budget bill and added that “probably 80 percent of our constituents would be opposed to this.”
But Weissmann argued the discussion of religion was irrelevant because that’s already covered in anti-discrimination language that has been written into budget bills “for decades.”
Denver Democratic Rep. Terrance Carroll said Weissmann’s amendment would not tell faith-based organizations how to spend their own money.
He said it would say that “if you’re going to take money from the state, you will not discriminate.”
Weissmann said, “I think we should stand up for nondiscrimination,” and he said that’s all his proposal did.
Four Democrats joined all 30 of the House’s Republicans in the vote to reject Weissmann’s proposal.
That included the two House Democrats on the Joint Budget Committee, Nederland Rep. Tom Plant and Grand Junction Rep. Bernie Buescher, who followed the JBC’s tradition of opposing any changes to their package of recommendations, but it also included Pueblo’s Dorothy Butcher and Greeley’s Jim Riesberg.
Rep. Keith King, R-Colorado Springs, said the question of including sexual orientation as a category that the state protects against discrimination “is a very, very big issue.”
Supporters of expanding Weissmann’s anti-discrimination proposal should introduce it in another bill so it can be debated separately, King said.