- The Washington Times - Monday, February 27, 2006

DENVER — Two of the West’s most influential power brokers are headed for a turf war in November over Colorado’s proposed constitutional amendment affirming traditional marriage.

On the left is Tim Gill, the homosexual software multimillionaire and Democratic activist who is dedicating his fortune earned as founder of Quark Inc., to advancing homosexual rights.

On the right is James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family in Colorado Springs and the go-to guy for religious conservatives on issues ranging from stem-cell research to Supreme Court nominees.

Mr. Dobson was an early leader of the movement to place the constitutional amendment on the state ballot in November. Ordinarily, the proposal would be a political no-brainer — Colorado voters trend to the right, having backed President Bush in 2004, and no state ever has defeated a traditional-marriage initiative.

Then again, no state had to contend with Mr. Gill and his bank account. In August, he started the Gill Action Fund, a political nonprofit that reportedly plans to spend as much as $30 million to defeat traditional-marriage amendments nationwide.

His first big test comes in Colorado.

“This is the back yard of Focus on the Family, but it’s also the back yard of Tim Gill, who’s in favor of progress and equality,” said Ted Trimpa, Mr. Gill’s political adviser.

Mr. Trimpa declined to give a dollar amount regarding how much Mr. Gill is planning to spend in Colorado, saying only that he would “invest significant resources.”

Whatever the amount, the other side is paying attention.

“Tim Gill has been fighting this in other states, but this is his home state,” said Jon Paul, executive director of Coloradans for Marriage, which is promoting the proposed constitutional amendment. “One article said he’s planning to spend between $3 [million] and $30 million. Obviously, we’re not going to have that kind of money, but we’ve got a great grass-roots organization.”

They also have Mr. Dobson, who is lending his considerable political clout to the proposal’s success. Supporters must collect 68,000 signatures by Aug. 7 to qualify for the Nov. 7 ballot, a hurdle they’re expected to clear easily.

Jim Pfaff, a spokesman for Focus on the Family, said he was confident that the amendment could withstand the Gill onslaught.

“There’s been opposition to other marriage amendments we’ve had these last two years — Oregon, Minnesota, Ohio,” he said. “Almost without exception, these things pass with a large majority.”

Robert Loevy, political science professor at Colorado College in Colorado Springs, agreed that the smart money lies with the amendment’s passage.

“Of course Tim Gill is going to have influence,” Mr. Loevy said. “But at this point, you have to go with the fact that Colorado votes very much with the rest of the nation.”

Not necessarily, said Brad Luna, a spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest homosexual rights political action committee.

While such amendments never have failed, the early flurry of victories has slowed in recent years as the opposition gained strength.

Opponents recently achieved a victory of sorts when petition drives to put constitutional amendments on the California and Florida ballots failed after proponents were unable to gather enough signatures.

“That was the first sign that this issue is not the slam-dunk it once was,” Mr. Luna said.

So far, Mr. Gill has tried to stay behind the scenes, although his profile is likely to increase as the campaign intensifies. The campaign is being run by Coloradans for Fairness and Equality, with the Gill Action Fund as an active contributor.

“The other team is trying to set up a straw man with Tim, but I doubt anyone here is going to be running around talking about Dr. Dobson, and his name ID is higher,” said Sean Duffy, spokesman for Coloradans for Fairness and Equality. “I’m hoping we can talk about the issues and not have this dueling.”

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