DENVER (AP) – A Colorado pro-civil unions group targeting vulnerable Republicans began its efforts Tuesday with a lawmaker whose narrow victory two years ago gave the GOP control of the House and the fate of legislation for same-sex couples.
The organization called “Fight Back Colorado” said that Jefferson County Rep. Robert Ramirez will be the first lawmaker targeted with mailers to voters. The group formed in June with the goal of helping defeat Republicans who oppose civil unions.
Ramirez never voted on the legislation, but the group notes that he was at a rally to support traditional marriage the day after the bill was defeated during a special session in May.
Ramirez said he supports strengthening gay rights, but that the civil union bill resembled marriage too much.
The district he represents is crucial to both parties. In 2010, he defeated an incumbent Democrat by 197 votes, giving Republicans control of the House for the first time since 2004, and the leverage to stop civil unions the past two years.
“That’s really what it is. This is, ‘Ramirez took our majority away, we’re going to get him,'” he said.
Roger Sherman, the treasurer and spokesman for the group, said it wants to focus resources on races that are going to count. Many of the Republicans who voted against civil union legislation in committees are in safe GOP districts.
“To target someone in an obviously safe seat, it might make a statement but not a difference,” he said. We want to be thoughtful in how we select targets.”
The mailer sent to Ramirez’s district has no mention of civil unions. Instead, it cites votes the lawmaker has taken on other issues. A doctored photo shows him in the outfit of a bomber pilot with the heading, “The Wrong Priorities of Wrong Way Ramirez.”
The group, which has raised $152,000, according to the latest disclosures, plans to target two or three more lawmakers who will be named in coming weeks.
A civil union bill that cleared the Democratic-led Senate last spring died in the House after Republicans, who have a 33-32 majority, refused to debate the legislation and filibustered to defeat the proposal. Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper called lawmakers into special session to consider civil unions again and House Republicans rejected the bill again.
Republicans have argued that same-sex couples already have some of the rights they’re seeking because of a designated beneficiaries law that passed a few years. Opponents also say civil unions are too similar to same-sex marriage, which Colorado voters banned in 2006.
Civil unions would grant gay couples rights similar to those belonging to married couples, including letting partners make medical decisions for each other. The protections also would enhance parental and inheritance rights.
More than a dozen states allow either gay marriage or civil unions, including several that moved to pass such laws this year.
Ramirez said Democrats could have passed civil unions when they controlled the House and the Senate before the 2010. He accused the party and Democratic Rep. Mark Ferrandino, a gay lawmaker who sponsored the bill, of using the legislation for political gain.
“This is a political maneuvering and he’s using his own people for political posturing, and I find it appalling,” Ramirez said.
Ferrandino called Ramirez’s insinuation “insulting.”
“The reason we brought (the bill) forward is because there are gay couples who need equal rights,” he said.
– By Ivan Moreno, AP Writer
(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)