- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 12, 2006

DENVER — Voters in Colorado could become the first in the nation to have two marriage-related initiatives on the same ballot — one affirming traditional marriage and the other establishing domestic partnerships for homosexual couples.

A coalition of conservative and religious groups is drumming up support for a constitutional amendment restricting marriage to the union of one man and one woman. At the same time, Democratic state legislators have introduced the Colorado Domestic Partnership Act, which would allow same-sex couples to enjoy many of the benefits of marriage by registering their relationship with county clerks.

Both measures must still clear some hurdles before winning ballot slots for the November elections, but their chances appear strong. The domestic-partnership bill requires only the approval of a simple majority of the Legislature, which is controlled by Democrats.

Meanwhile, organizers of the constitutional amendment, Coloradans for Marriage, are expected to easily gather the 68,000 signatures needed by Aug. 7 to qualify.

No other state has considered ballot measures on both sides of the marriage issue in the same election, said John Green, a senior fellow at the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life in the District.

What’s more, it’s possible that both measures could win approval, he said, in spite of their obvious conflicts.

“I’m not sure Coloradans will see these as contradictory, and it’s certainly possible that both could pass,” Mr. Green said. “It’s contradictory only if the constitutional amendment negates civil unions, which this one doesn’t do.”

Indeed, many centrist voters may decide to check the boxes for both traditional and domestic partnerships.

“Even some of those who support traditional marriage say they could support civil unions because they think gay people should be dealt with fairly,” Mr. Green said.

A Mason-Dixon Research poll released yesterday by the Denver Post confirmed his analysis: 55 percent of those surveyed supported a traditional-marriage constitutional amendment, while 50 percent favored a state law allowing same-sex domestic partnerships with the legal benefits of marriage.

Why the push for a constitutional amendment?

“The statute isn’t bulletproof,” said Jon Paul, executive director of Coloradans for Marriage. “The statutes on the books nationwide are being challenged by activists, and activist judges are willing to overturn them.”

Unlike other traditional-marriage initiatives, however, the Colorado amendment has some serious opposition. Setting his sights on the measure is Tim Gill, the Denver-based software millionaire who formed a nonprofit last year to spend millions fighting traditional-marriage amendments.

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