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Proposed anti-gay amendment in Colorado qualifies for ballot


By Scottie Thomaston

In March I reported on a proposed amendment to Colorado’s state constitution, an attempt by the Alliance Defense Fund and Focus on the Family to allow discrimination if it is claimed to be motivated by “sincerely held religious belief”. Like 1992’s infamous Amendment 2, which was later ruled unconstitutional by the US Supreme Court in Romer v. Evans in 1996, the amendment’s effects would be to target minorities and single them out for discrimination and denial of basic services and needs. In March, the amendment was only proposed, and right-wing groups were trying to qualify the measure for placement on the ballot so the voters can decide whether it will be adopted or not.

A challenge to the amendment has failed:

Today’s title board hearing just finished up. Despite having some of the best legal minds in Colorado working for us and mounting a strong legal case, we lost our initial challenge to Focus on the Family’s deceptive ballot initiative to write discrimination into our state Constitution. Now we have to take our challenge to the Colorado State Supreme Court. If we don’t, this dangerous measure is all but certain to appear on our ballot this fall. If enacted, this measure’s radical effects will be felt in Colorado for decades to come—and would have far-reaching implications for LGBT Coloradans.

Here is the amendment’s language:

Section 32. Religious Liberty.

(1) Government may not burden a person’s or religious organization’s religious liberty.

(2) The right to act or refuse to act in a manner motivated by a sincerely held religious belief may not be burdened unless the government prove it has a compelling governmental interest in infringing the specific act or refusal to act and has used the least restrictive means to further that interest.

(3) A burden includes indirect burdens such as withholding benefits, assessing penalties, or an exclusion from programs or access to facilities.

In March I said:

Essentially, it suggests that discrimination would be acceptable if it is done for religious reasons unless the government can meet certain strenuous requirements. For the most part, of course, the government can’t restrict or impede religious practices or impose certain religious beliefs on society. Common decency and the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th amendment does lead to the conclusion however that different classes of people should be treated equally in our laws, so necessarily this means disfavored classes have equal rights, too.

The amendment would “create a two-tiered society” and disadvantage gay people based on a specious rationalization[.]”

Passage of the amendment would be a serious step back for Colorado. And it would come at quite possibly the worst time for the state, given its recent pro-LGBT advancements. There’s a new proposal in the state to remove the unconstitutional Amendment 2 from the books, and a civil unions bill for LGBTs is advancing in the state legislature. Recent polling in the state indicates strong majority support for the civil unions bill as well as majority support for marriage equality.


  • 1. bayareajohn  |  April 20, 2012 at 1:55 pm

    So if I sincerely believe that taxation violates my religious dogma, I won't have to pay them. Or if my religion says I need to kill kittens, we're going to be fine with that.

  • 2. Michelle Evans  |  April 20, 2012 at 2:08 pm

    We can all form our own religion which may discriminate in any way that our personal dogma says we must. So those business owners who have strongly held religious beliefs against blacks or latinos may also withhold services and/or benefits. Insanity.

    And yet all along the anti-LGBT forces have said how much they absolutely love us and none of their actions are created out of any sort of animosity toward us. More insanity.

  • 3. Lynn E  |  April 22, 2012 at 3:50 am

    "anti-LGBT forces have said how much they absolutely love us and none of their actions are created out of any sort of animosity toward us"
    Right, I am always confused when I hear that. It is tantamount to saying "I love second-class citizens as much as the next guy."

  • 4. Lymis  |  April 21, 2012 at 8:08 am

    We're going to find that in the mind of the supporters of this, the "compelling governmental interest in infringing that specific act" lines up perfectly with their own prejudices.

    The government will have a compelling interest in collecting taxes and protecting innocent creatures, and no doubt, in preventing Muslims, Hindus, Wiccans, Episcopalians and other heretics from engaging in public displays of religion, but conveniently, no government interest in protecting gay and lesbian citizens or non-Christians from being discriminated against.

  • 5. bayareajohn  |  April 21, 2012 at 10:29 am

    It's worse than that, this crazy law would not only require government to prove compelling interest, but also prove restrictions are the "least restrictive means to further that interest", Which means if you can think of a less restrictive alternative, they can't restrict. Since the state could tax other people higher and not tax me, who sincerely believes tax to be against my religion, that trumps the compelling interest. From the face of it, the burden of proof will be on the government. They'll need to start hiring more Judges, and this is going to be expensive.

  • 6. Waxr  |  April 21, 2012 at 11:56 am

    The is scriptual support for not paying taxes:

    Matthew 17:25-26
    When Peter came into the house, Jesus spoke to him first, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do earthly kings collect tolls or taxes – from their sons or from foreigners?” After he said, “From foreigners,” Jesus said to him, “Then the sons are free.

    Let the government collect taxes from foreigners. Leave the sons alone.

  • 7. MightyAcorn  |  April 21, 2012 at 5:02 pm

    Um…nice try at cherry-picking verses to validate your political views, but as anyone who knows the Bible can tell you, Jesus instructs Peter to pay the tax (from the King James version):

    "24And when they were come to Capernaum, they that received tribute money came to Peter, and said, Doth not your master pay tribute?

    25He saith, Yes. And when he was come into the house, Jesus prevented him, saying, What thinkest thou, Simon? of whom do the kings of the earth take custom or tribute? of their own children, or of strangers?

    26Peter saith unto him, Of strangers. Jesus saith unto him, Then are the children free.

    27Notwithstanding, lest we should offend them, go thou to the sea, and cast an hook, and take up the fish that first cometh up; and when thou hast opened his mouth, thou shalt find a piece of money: that take, and give unto them for me and thee."

  • 8. bayareajohn  |  April 21, 2012 at 7:05 pm

    Don't jump to conclusions… I'm not at all sure Waxr was "going religious" or validating his/her own view so much as demonstrating that this bill is set to fail… there's solid traditional religious basis for really undoing much of government under this rule.

  • 9. MightyAcorn  |  April 23, 2012 at 9:22 am

    I apologize for any offense, but I'm saying there *isn't* a scriptural basis for not paying taxes….Jesus expressly said to pay earthly taxes, "render unto Caesar," if you recall.

    More to the point, to assume the bill will fail because it's based on religious bias is naive. That's precisely why it will pass, if enough zealots vote for it. Unlike taxes….where there's an obvious "compelling government interest" and the amendment's use as a tax-scam would never be tolerated or found valid…..discrimination has been embedded in our legal code for centuries and it is never dispensed with easily. It apears they are preparing for the inevitabilty of civil unions and same-sex marriage by trying to exempt themselves from having to provide services on an equal basis. Sadly, the "religious liberty" argument has traction in FOTF territory, and the courts probably won't look at the case until after the damage is done.

  • 10. Stefan  |  April 20, 2012 at 2:03 pm

    I doubt this will pass if it even reaches the voters. On the off chance that it does it will be swiftly invalidated in court.

  • 11. Michelle Evans  |  April 20, 2012 at 2:10 pm

    Swiftly, in court terms can be many years, unfortunately. Look at the history of Amendment 2 which took four years to overturn, not to mention 3-and-a-half–and counting–for Prop 8 here in California. Tell Derence and Ed how swiftly the court system works. Didn't do them much good, did it. This new ballot measure should never be allowed on the ballot in the first place, just like should be the case for any anti-LGBT measure.

  • 12. Bob  |  April 20, 2012 at 2:40 pm

    The courts are not in a hurry that's for sure. On the other hand, while it's agonizing to wait for Prop 8 to be definitively tossed and it remains in effect until such time as that happens, if I am not mistaken, the opposite was true for Amendment 2; it was enjoined before it could take effect. That will be the case here.

    I cannot honestly conceive how anything like what's being proposed would pass muster since it would hold all claims regarding behavior based on "sincerely held religious beliefs" equally, including when they conflict with one another or appear to condone behavior that is otherwise illegal. All by itself it would lead to endless amounts of litigation while conflicting claims of supremacy get sorted out. And some of those claims would absolutely be held invalid as violations of the US Constitution even if ostensibly permitted by state law.

  • 13. Steve  |  April 20, 2012 at 2:17 pm

    Anyone who even utters the words "seriously held religious beliefs" needs to be punched in the face. I absolutely despise that phrasing. It has become such a cliche.

    It doesn't matter how sincerely someone beliefs in something. That doesn't magically make it true or good.

  • 14. Str8Grandmother  |  April 20, 2012 at 3:03 pm

    May I add, "Deeply held religious beliefs"

  • 15. Sagesse  |  April 20, 2012 at 2:19 pm


  • 16. bayareajohn  |  April 20, 2012 at 2:33 pm

    What does the "@" and other symbols that are frequently posted here represent?

  • 17. Ed Cortes  |  April 20, 2012 at 2:37 pm

    It's used to post a message so that the poster can subscribe to updates on the thread without needing to post something like "subscribing".

  • 18. bayareajohn  |  April 20, 2012 at 2:39 pm

    Huh. Unfriendly to everyone but the subscriber.

  • 19. DaveP  |  April 20, 2012 at 3:46 pm

    I'm sure it's not meant that way. It's just that people may not have anything to say yet when they see a new thread starting, but they want to subscribe. The same folks who do this are quite friendly in their other posts. (personally, I've never needed to "subscribe", I just visit the page & comment, but I understand that other folks access the site in different ways).

  • 20. Sagesse  |  April 21, 2012 at 6:57 am

    Actually, it's unfriendly to the subscriber too. Unfortunately, on some mobile devices like my iPad, it is the only way to subscribe. On my laptop, I can and do subscribe without commenting. A quirk of this site that one gets used to after a while.

  • 21. MightyAcorn  |  April 21, 2012 at 12:20 pm

    re: @…

    Think of it as a little ear, meaning, "I'm listening!" to the soon-to-be comments on the thread. Awww.

  • 22. bayareajohn  |  April 20, 2012 at 2:27 pm

    It also makes belief a required matter of proof in court, so the seriousness of belief will become a matter of degree to be measured legally. Like the legal maximum occupancy of angels on the head of a pin.

    What will be most entertaining is to watch the writers of this try to revise it to limit the application to just specific targets of their choice, and just specific recognized religions, and just specific acts or omissions. And then say it's defending religious freedom.

  • 23. chris hogan  |  April 20, 2012 at 2:49 pm

    They just never stop!

    Now it's clear the anti-gay side could care less if two men across the street get married. What they REALLY just want is to promote public perception that homosexuality is immoral. They just use whatever current issue they think they can to advance their goal. I can't wait to see what my kids and grandkids will be reading in their U.S. History II course about this!

  • 24. Str8Grandmother  |  April 20, 2012 at 3:07 pm

    Oh just wait and see how well this is going to work. I sent in story idea to the tv show "What would you do" I suggested that they film in in Colorado. A woman pulls up to a gas station and a guy in Arab garb and sandals comes walking over to her car and tells her that he is sorry but according to his sincerely held religious beliefs can't sell her any gas unless she is accompanied by a close male family member, "It's his sincerely held religious belief" How long do you think it is going to take these nice Christian women when they are refused services to think that maybe this is not such a good idea? Oh and I asked that they film in a very small town that has only one gas station and no other gas stations for miles around.

  • 25. juliecason (JC)  |  April 21, 2012 at 6:41 am

    Awesome. Thank you for that! Great example of how this goofy law could potentially be construed. If ever there were a law that led to disastrous unintended consequences, this would be it….

  • 26. Lymis  |  April 21, 2012 at 8:16 am

    There is a wonderful series of commercials about discrimination out of somewhere in South America that does just this.
    In one, a male jogger is picked up and harassed by the police. He's in skimpy clothes, so even though he was clearly jogging and was sweating and wearing an ipod, he must be a prostitute. Were is his ID? And so on. They grab him, fondling him a bit and saying that yes, he must be a prostitute, and push him into the car. Then there is a screen that asks "Is this right?" and the camera moves back to show it's now a woman in jogging clothes in the police car instead, hinting that this happens to women all the time

    A similar ad shows a straight couple getting thrown out of a restaurant for holding hands at the table on their anniversary – and only after it's all over, and the same, "Is this right" when the camera returns to the couple, it is now two women instead of a straight couple.

    They manage it in under 30 seconds. A similar ad campaign here might be a good idea.

  • 27. Str8Grandmother  |  April 21, 2012 at 9:13 am

    Those sound like good ads Lymis. If you ever find the link please post.

  • 28. Glenn I  |  April 20, 2012 at 3:12 pm

    Everyone talking about this should use #creepingsharia in their conversation.

  • 29. DaveP  |  April 20, 2012 at 3:49 pm

    For those of us who are not too bright about this stuff, can you explain? What is "#creepingsharia"?

  • 30. bayareajohn  |  April 20, 2012 at 4:52 pm

    It's a lot like posting an @

  • 31. bayareajohn  |  April 21, 2012 at 10:38 am

    Downvotes for sarcasm. I guess I earned that. This one I know, though, and it actually is the same family of issue as the @, a crossover to different media.

    If you use TWITTER, you can add "hash tags" to help others find related posts. Like adding a category or keywords. When you hear that something is "trending on twitter", the statistics are high on posts with that particular tag, meaning popularity. Groups push for specific tags to be able to demonstrate support through trending.

    Did I get that right? I don't use twitter, but apparently no one who does cared to answer. Maybe they couldn't adequately answer in 128 characters, the twitter limit….

  • 32. _BK_  |  April 20, 2012 at 10:35 pm

    I think you have the wrong religion there, Glenn… the ones pushing this amendment are Christians… thus no Sharia…

  • 33. bayareajohn  |  April 21, 2012 at 11:30 am

    You think too narrowly. Sharia Law is to some "ebedded" in religion, thus anyone guided or acting under Sharia Law would have to be permitted by this all-religion even-handed total defense of religion law.

    A sharp knife cuts everyone equally.

  • 34. Mark M. (Seattle)  |  April 20, 2012 at 3:44 pm

    This just posted to FaceBook;
    Claiming that someone else's marriage is against your religion is like being angry at someone for eating a doughnut because you're on a diet.

  • 35. MightyAcorn  |  April 21, 2012 at 8:10 am

    But donuts look like wedding rings, so anti-marriage-equality forces should be careful. Eating donuts is a slippery slope to gay marriage….or something like that.

  • 36. Str8Grandmother  |  April 20, 2012 at 4:41 pm

    [youtube I948dOw41I8 youtube]

  • 37. Str8Grandmother  |  April 20, 2012 at 4:43 pm

    Had a little trouble commenting + embedding the video so I'll make my comment here. Some brave Mormons speaking out.

    The video to be released Saturday during a national conference for gay Mormons in Washington, D.C., is part of the ongoing "It Gets Better" project, which seeks to give hope to bullied lesbian and gay teenagers.

    Read more:

  • 38. Gregory in SLC  |  April 21, 2012 at 1:38 pm

    tx for the video SG. I attend the PFLAG Utah convention today and many of the people in the video were in attendance…so I was able to communicate to them I appreciate their work.

    While in attendance, also got to watch a VERY inspiring movie "Faces & Facets of Transgender experience" Recommend! can purchase for $15. It celebrates wonderful people and families:

  • 39. Derek Williams  |  April 21, 2012 at 2:22 am

    That's a lovely video

  • 40. Kathleen  |  April 20, 2012 at 6:36 pm

    From Colorado One's statement (quoted above and available in full here:… it appears that the next step is to go to the Colorado Supreme Court. Is that true? Anyone here understand Colorado's initiative process who can explain this to us?

  • 41. JSteven  |  April 21, 2012 at 10:52 am

    Recently a justice of the peace declined for "severe religious beliefs" to marry an inter-racial couiple and politely referred them to another JP who would perform the ceremony. He was forced to resign despite claiming it wouldn't be a "burden" for the couple to use another JP.. Suppose a whole state decided that the state would deny such ceremonies and that there would be a "gentlemen's agreement" to boycott anyone who does?

    Actually such "gentlemen's agreement" (see a great Gregory Peck movie by the same name) was common in the south to bar Blacks and Jews from setting up shop in a town.

  • 42. Waxr  |  April 21, 2012 at 12:03 pm

    Most courts follow the adage of never making a decision if you do not have to. Therefore, they will not rule on the constitutionality of a proposition unless it passes. If it does not pass, there is no need to make a decision.

  • 43. NancyH  |  April 22, 2012 at 1:45 pm

    Anti-LGBT legislation is bad for the economy.

    Tax churches.

  • 44. VoiceOfConcern  |  April 23, 2012 at 10:07 am

    i see this law as right wing libertarian poppycock. this law would permit Rastafarians to smoke their sacred herb wherever they saw fit. this law would allow Mormons & other religious poligamy folks to openly set up shop. racists of all stripes could freely commit various heinous acts.. the proposed law is not simply anti gay… it's an invitation to violent anarchy

  • 45. NorthDecoder  |  April 24, 2012 at 2:01 pm

    Don't think of it as a "Religious Liberty" Amendment. Think of it as a "Pro-Criminals" Amendment.

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