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Publish Date: 5/4/2005

House panel kills ballot proposal defining marriage


DENVER — Berthoud-area Republican Rep. Kevin Lundberg’s proposal to ask voters to insert a definition of marriage into the Colorado Constitution died Tuesday in a party-line vote in the House Judiciary Committee.

Democrats prevailed in the 6-5 vote to kill Lundberg’s House Concurrent Resolution 1003, which would have prohibited granting legal marital status to same-sex partnerships or other nontraditional unions.

Marriage between one man and one woman is “the core institution of civilization,” Lundberg told Judiciary Committee members.

But Michael Brewer, a representative of Equal Rights Colorado, said there are “some serious problems with the language” in Lundberg’s constitutional amendment that could have consequences for unmarried heterosexuals as well as gays and lesbians.

Brewer said that after a similar measure was adopted in Ohio last year, a judge dismissed a domestic violence charge against a woman’s boyfriend, saying the same-sex marriage ban negated domestic-violence protections for all but married couples.

“This proposal tilts at windmills, but it runs the risk of impaling people,” Brewer said.

Lundberg’s measure would have asked voters to add a new section to the state Constitution to say:

“A marriage, including an otherwise valid common law marriage, shall be valid or recognized in the state of Colorado only if it is between one man and one woman. The state of Colorado shall neither create nor recognize a legal status for unmarried persons that is similar to that of the legal status of married persons. Nothing in this section shall be deemed to prohibit or invalidate a legal obligation or contract between unmarried persons.”

Lundberg warned that efforts are under way to redefine marriage and replace it “with a gender-neutral imitation.”

But Cathy Hazouri, executive director of the Colorado chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, noted that under a bill the Legislature adopted several years ago, state law already only recognizes a marriage as being a union between one man and one woman.

“It’s just plain wrong to write discrimination into a constitution,” Hazouri said.

Several weeks ago, when Lundberg unveiled his proposal, he acknowledged the Legislature was unlikely to refer it to voters. Even if it had cleared Tuesday’s committee hurdle, HCR1002 would have needed at least 44 votes in the 65-member House and 24 votes in the 35-member Senate to advance to next year’s ballot.

However, backers of the idea of limiting the legal status of marriage to relationships between people of the opposite sex could petition a constitutional amendment onto the ballot.

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