DENVER (AP) – A constitutional amendment to repeal Colorado’s gay marriage ban and replace it with language saying marriage is allowed regardless of sex could be headed to the 2012 ballot.
A state title board will review language next week to clear the proposal for ballots. If approved, supporters would have to collect about 86,000 signatures to put the question to voters.
The proposal would reverse a 2006 amendment that said only a union of one man and one woman would be a valid marriage. That language would be replaced with a sentence saying, “Marriage will have the same requirements and effects regardless of whether the parties are the same or different sex.”
The sponsors are 19-year-old college students who say they were inspired by the recent vote in New York state to allow same-sex marriage there.
“I feel like it’s time to start fighting for it here,” said Mark Olmstead of Arvada. Olmstead said he does not have any immediate plans to marry but wants the right to if he chooses.
However, not all gay-rights supporters think the ballot proposal is a good idea. Brad Clark, the executive director of One Colorado, said the group won’t pursue petitioning the measure onto ballots. An earlier attempt the remove the constitution’s gay marriage ban failed to get enough signatures in 2010.
“We applaud the spirit of the proposal, but we believe it’s the job of the Legislature to address this issue,” Clark said.
A proposal to allow civil unions passed the Democratic state Senate earlier this year but failed in the Republican House. Clark said his group is focused on improving chances for civil unions in the Legislature, not seeking a ballot measure.
The sponsor of the unsuccessful civil unions bill, Democratic Sen. Pat Steadman of Denver, said the timing may be bad for a gay-marriage question.
“I don’t know that next year is really the right time to go after this issue in the Colorado Constitution. It’s an important election cycle and I think a lot of resources are going to be directed elsewhere,” he said.
Talking about the young sponsors, Steadman said, “I think they speak for a lot of people who think what’s in our constitution today is discriminatory and anachronistic, but I don’t think there’s going to be a real outpouring of resources to try to get this on the ballot next year
A gay-marriage opponent predicted Thursday that voters would reject the change.
“We have every confidence that the people of Colorado would affirm that vote again if an attempt to repeal marriage comes to the ballot,” said Carrie Gordon Earll of Focus on the Family.
The sponsors of the proposal aren’t giving up. Emily Rhodes, a 19-year-old student at Metropolitan State College of Denver, said she doesn’t understand why some gay-marriage supporters say the time isn’t right.
“I’m really confident we can pull this off,” Rhodes said. “I feel like, as time goes by, people are becoming more open to the idea of gay marriage.”
Olmstead, a student at Seattle University, said the bigger job will be winning passage at the polls. The 2006 gay-marriage ban passed with about 55 percent of the vote.
“I think Colorado has changed from then to now. I’m not entirely sure it’s changed enough, but it’s about time to start talking about it,” he said.
Steadman said he thinks the constitution will be changed, just maybe not next year.
“That day is coming. The language in our constitution today will not stand the test of time,” he said.
By AP Writer Kristen Wyatt Associated Press writer Ivan Moreno contributed to this report. Follow Kristen Wyatt at http://www.twitter.com/APkristenwyatt and Ivan Moreno at http://www.twitter.com/ivanjournalist
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