LGBT group plans legal challenge to anti-gay ‘religious freedom’ initiative


DENVER — Statewide LGBT advocacy organization One Colorado is planning a legal challenge to a broadly-written ballot proposal by conservative religious liberty group that could undermine state law protecting LGBT people from discrimination.

The initiative, submitted by the Alliance Defense Fund to the state March 7, would prevent the state from penalizing individuals or religious organizations acting on “sincerely held religious belief.”

Focus on the Family, the Colorado Springs religious organization, is leading the charge to organize support for the initiative.

But One Colorado, partnering with Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains and Interfaith Alliance of Colorado, is hoping to defeat the initiative during the state’s initial review process.

“Everyone has a right to their own religious beliefs, but no one should be above the law,” One Colorado said in an official statement. “This extreme measure would create a two-tiered society where the law applies only to some and not others. The far-reaching consequences of this deceptive initiative are incredibly dangerous for all Coloradans.”

One Colorado Executive Director Brad Clark said the language is deceptive, and as examples said the amendment could allow a pharmacist to refuse to fill a birth control prescription, an employer to refuse to hire based on sexual orientation or gender identity, or a teacher to refuse to teach sex ed or evolution by citing religious convictions.

It could also, the One Colorado email announcement read, “allow anyone with a religious conviction to deny employment, housing, or services to LGBT people.”

“We don’t really know where it would end,” said One Colorado’s Deputy Director Jess Woodrum.

Mindy Barton, legal director of the GLBT Community Center of Colorado, also noted text of the measure is very broad and the potential applications are unclear.

“We are unsure of what the proposed ballot initiative mans, and we are interested to hear if Focus on the Family, whose Senior Vice President is listed as one of the proponents, will explain the intent behind it,” Barton said.

Barton continued, “What we do know is that both the US Constitution and the Colorado Constitution provide strong protections for religious freedom. The Center has concerns that the initiative may potentially have implications on law relating to education, employment, reproductive rights, civil rights and a host of other areas.”

The initiative comes 20 years after Colorado voters passed a constitutional amendment that prohibited local governments our courts from extending anti-discrimination protections to lesbian or gay citizens.

Amendment 2 was ultimately ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1996.

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