Lawmakers At Odds Over State Division That Investigates Discrimination

DENVER (CBS4) – The group that investigates claims of discrimination in Colorado might lose its state funding.

Republicans leaders in the state say they want the Colorado Civil Rights Division to exist, but it needs funding and funding expires at the end of June. Democratic leaders on Thursday accused Republicans of wanting that to happen.

Social progressives believe the ruling that favored a gay couple denied a wedding cake by a Lakewood baker is proof the Division should be funded without hesitation.

“We want to make sure that wordplaces are free from discrimination for all people,” said Colorado House Speaker Crisanta Duran, a Democrat.

House Speaker Crisanta Duran (credit: CBS)

Duran called Republicans on the Joint Budget Committee outrageous when they asked to table the conversation about funding for the Division until later this year.

“It is a slap in the face to Coloradans who depend on the office, and we need to do more to assure that we have equity,” she said.

But Republicans accuse Democrats of dirty politics by trying to force a vote through the committee to fund the Division before lawmakers have even seen a bill that would dictate its function.

“They wanted to basically pick a fight on this right now, make a political statement that there might be some sort of crisis to worry people of Colorado that something is being defunded — and it’s not,” said state Sen. Ken Lambert, a Republican from El Paso County.

State Sen. Ken Lambert (credit: CBS)

Conservatives, however, are not without criticisms of the division, and are likely to ask for changes to the agency’s policies. They are fueled by statements from right-leaning justices on the U.S. Supreme Court who reviewed the wedding cake issue and questioned if the Division itself is too biased.

“It is surprising that my colleagues would force a vote on this when they know that’s just not usually the way we usually conduct business,” Lambert said.

Republicans on the Joint Budget Committee could approve the Democrats’ plan at any time, but it’s likely the’re going to wait until late next week when a bill is introduced for the full House to consider exactly how the Colorado Civil Rights Division handles their cases moving forward.

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