Romer vetoes bill outlawing same-sex marriages, Bain looks for GOP sweep


Twenty Years Ago this week in The Colorado Statesman … Gov. Roy Romer wielded his veto pen “with open hands urging reconciliation and respect,” rejecting a bill that would have outlawed same-sex marriages in Colorado. Romer said he spent many hours studying the question and, despite an intense campaign waged by supporters and opponents, wound up about where he had started before the bill landed on his desk. The legislation, sponsored by state Rep. Marilyn Musgrave, R-Fort Morgan, and state Sen. Ben Alexander, R-Montrose, “was unnecessary and mean-spirited,” the governor said at a crowded press conference. “Let’s find out how we can live together with our differences, rather than be divided over the issue of sexual orientation,” Romer said. “There is a right way to proceed, and a wrong way. There is a unifying way, and a divisive way. There is a thoughtful way, and a simplistic way. I believe (the bill) fails on all these counts.” Romer said he probably would have signed the bill if it had described Colorado’s current marriage law — one man, one woman — and established a commission to study other relationships, including gay couples. Sponsors said they might consider a compromise version. …

… “The status quo of politics-as-usual will be locked in place,” and “Real change would be outlawed,” if a referendum establishing a 60 percent threshold at the ballot box for constitutional amendments were to pass, wrote Douglas Bruce in a letter to the editor. Amendment A, authored by state Sen. Ray Powers, was vengeful legislation aimed squarely at term limits and Bruce’s own tax-limiting ballot measures, Bruce claimed. “‘Public servants’ who don’t like the way we voted recently want to make sure we can’t vote on meaningful issues in the future,’” he wrote. Not one to mince words, Bruce wrote, “citizens are waking up to this grotesque fascist conspiracy to rape the Bill of Rights,” and that awareness appeared to have Powers and ally state Rep. Doug Dean “scrambling to save face.” An alternative proposed by Powers and Dean would scrap the 60 percent vote requirement in favor of a “scheme” that would require 40 percent more petition signatures — without limiting the power of politicians to propose amendments, Bruce noted. “It’s hard enough to control politicians; now they want to make it impossible,” Bruce wrote. “If you just sit by and watch the last of your freedoms disappear, you will get the government you deserve — it’s called a police state.” …

… A group of core supporters of state Rep. Douglas Friednash, D-Denver, were scouting the 1st Congressional District for a new candidate in the congressional race following Friednash’s announcement a week earlier that he wouldn’t be in the running to take retiring U.S. Rep. Pat Schroeder’s place. Some two dozen prominent Denver Democrats would likely settle for one of the three remaining Dems in the race — former gubernatorial staffer Les Franklin, former Denver Councilman Tim Sandos or state Rep. Diana DeGette — said House District 4 Chairman Gary Sulley, but that didn’t mean they were happy about it. “The heart of the Friednash campaign wanted to look at the field in a larger way,” he said. “People who looked at (the race) previously were asked again.” The group came up with three potential candidates who could take the place of Friednash in the primary: state Rep. Ken Gordon, D-Denver, former District Attorney Norm Early and Rabbi Steven Foster. All three appeared to be flattered but uninterested. Gordon said he wanted to spend more time with his family, Early had a lucrative job in the private sector and looked to have put politics behind him, and Foster told The Statesman he was content at Denver’s Temple Emanuel. Foster said he might have wanted to run for Congress four years earlier, but he didn’t want to relocate to Washington now that his wife, Joyce, was a Denver City Council member. The Friednash partisans decided they would welcome Franklin, Sandos and DeGette to “the wooing box,” said former Friednash campaign manager Clay Vigoda, issuing an invitation for the candidates to talk with the group. …

… All state Republican Party Chairman Don Bain wanted in 1996 was a veto-proof Legislature and a new first couple in the White House. The one-time Denver mayoral candidate displayed high hopes at the chic Metropolitan Club as he delivered the annual “state of the party” address to the Cherry Creek Republican Women’s Club, predicting a GOP win against likely Democratic Senate nominee Tom Strickland. In late March, U.S. Rep. Wayne Allard and Attorney General Gale Norton appeared to be neck and neck in the Republican primary, a field also including state Sen. Charlie Duke, R-Monument. But having been through the guilt-by-client-association wringer himself, powerhouse attorney Bain said he felt confident that powerhouse attorney Strickland would be easy pickings for Republicans. Strickland, a name partner at Brownstein Hyatt Farber Strickland, could easily be kept on the defensive when confronted with a list of legal and lobbying clients retained by the 17th Street firm. “He has a lot of the same kind of clients that I was accused of having when I ran for office,” Bain said with a wide grin, and a recent Rocky Mountain News story about the law firm “would lay the basis for any opposition research for any candidate running against him.” As for the veto-proof majority in the General Assembly, Bain’s mantra was “44/24,” for the numbers the GOP needed in the House and Senate, respectively. Republicans were confident they’d get within two or three in each chamber and just needed a strong performance by likely GOP presidential nominee Bob Dole, the senator from Kansas, to pull them across the finish line.

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