Culture wars are moving from Legislature to ballot |

Culture wars are moving from Legislature to ballot

DENVER – The Rev. Phil Campbell is a veteran of Colorado’s culture wars, a leader among approximately 100 clergy members who have waged a losing battle with the Legislature for years to allow civil unions for 10,000 gay couples.This year, Campbell is reorganizing. He is supporting Democrats who have promised to introduce a ballot measure that would allow same-sex partners to automatically inherit each other’s property. And he wants his supporters to fight a plan by conservatives to define marriage as a union of one man and one woman.Gay marriage. Illegal immigration. Abortion. With the Colorado legislative session less than two weeks old, all three hot button issues are already on the table in some form or another and experts say it’s no coincidence: Conservatives and liberals are looking to put cultural and social issues on the ballot in hopes of getting their core voters to the polls.”This is an election year. These issues energize the base by having issues that are important to them on the ballot,” said House Minority Leader Joe Stengel, R-Littleton.Last year in Colorado, Republicans lost a U.S. Senate seat and a congressional seat to Democrats, along with control of both houses in the Legislature. After this year, they will lose a GOP governor, Bill Owens, to term limits.As far as they are concerned, cultural issues are fair game.Independent pollster Floyd Ciruli of Denver said Democrats have used the strategy for years to prod their supporters to the polls, offering bills that would ban the bomb or guarantee abortion rights.For his part, Campbell said he believes it’s wrong to use high-profile cultural issues as political bait but sees no way to stop it.”I think it distorts the intention of the political process, but it comes with a free society,” he said.Campbell said the strategy may have been a key factor in the re-election of President Bush in 2004, when a proposal in Ohio to ban legal recognition of gay marriage was credited with increased turnout among conservative voters.”You can point to that and say that decided the presidential election in 2004,” Campbell said.In Colorado this year, lawmakers are also considering a measure that would make the killing of a fetus a felony, with some exceptions for doctors, while private citizens are pushing a measure for the November ballot that would bar abortion of any viable fetus – a proposal Republicans plan to use to get their supporters to the polls.Some of the hot button issues this year, either before the Colorado Legislature or being pushed for the November ballot by private groups:ABORTION-Legislature: Making the killing of a fetus a felony, with some exceptions for doctors. (House Bill 1128)-Proposed ballot issue: Initiative 48, barring abortion of any viable fetus.ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS-Legislature: Barring newly hired illegal immigrants from being able to collect workers’ compensation benefits. (Senate Bill 98)-Legislature: Requiring police to determine if people who have been arrested are illegal immigrants before they are allowed to post bond. (House Bill 1131)-Legislature: Barring communities from setting up sanctuaries for illegal immigrants or trying to bar police officers, local officials or local government employees from cooperating with federal officials. (Senate Bill 90)-Legislature: Prohibiting a public contract being awarded to a contractor who knowingly employs an illegal immigrant. (House Bill 1101)-Legislature: Requiring employers to care for illegal immigrants who work for them and holding them responsible for any illegal acts they commit. (House Bill 1082)-Legislature: Prohibiting a state agency from entering into a public contract for services with a contractor who knowingly employs an illegal immigrant to work on the contract. (House Bill 1133)-Legislature: Specifically authorizing Colorado state patrol officers, sheriffs, undersheriffs, deputy sheriffs and police officers to identify, process and detain illegal immigrants. (House Bill 1134)-Proposed ballot issue: Initiative 55, barring non-emergency services to illegal immigrants, barring lawsuits over failure to deliver services.GAY RIGHTS-Legislature: Adding sexual orientation to the list of characteristics barred as discrimination in the hiring, firing or promoting employees. (Senate Bill 81)-Legislature: Democrats say they will introduce a proposed ballot measure at the Legislature that would ask voters to allow same-sex partners to automatically inherit each other’s property, among other provisions.-Possible ballot issue: The newly formed group Coloradans for Marriage is considering a proposal that defines marriage as a union of one man and one woman, but does not ban legal recognition of domestic partnerships that offer inheritance rights and other benefits.

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