The latest brouhaha over whether the second-largest city in Colorado should extend insurance benefits to employees with domestic partners is so last century.
1992, to be exact.
Beginning next year, City Manager Lorne Kramer wants to extend insurance coverage to include domestic partners -- which includes gay and lesbian couples.
Kramer's rationale is simple: He wants to promote nondiscrimination in the workplace, which complies, by the way, with the Council's own stated zero-tolerance policy towards discrimination.
"There is no hidden agenda," Kramer said. "I try to live by a moral compass and it was clear to me that we have employees who are not being given the same options that are given to others."
Of course, many major companies, including Coors, Coca-Cola and Qwest, as well as government agencies, have already adopted these accepted standards of the day.
When Kramer's proposal was announced, all hell broke loose.
Last Thursday, spurred on by Focus on the Family -- that influential ministry that promotes Christian brotherly love -- 68 people rushed City Hall to express often-bitter opposition to the proposal.
Many of them dragged out their tired old anti-gay arguments:
That homosexuals are rich, die young, and therefore can afford to buy their own health insurance.
That people who don't approve of homosexuality shouldn't be forced to pay for AIDS cases.
That this measure would "open the floodgates" -- whatever that means.
That this is an "attack" on the family and on marriage.
There was the always-convoluted "special rights" argument -- in this case, the claim that not offering benefits to domestic partners does not discriminate, because under its current policy, the city treats unmarried straight people and gays equally.
And the ever-handy disclaimer: "My brother is gay and therefore I'm not a bigot."
Or how about this tried-and-true favorite? That "even the best" gay people average 43 partners in a lifetime, and some -- hold onto your seats here -- have sex with 500 people every year!
That last "fact" positively floored gay activist Frank Whitworth. "I wouldn't be dead of AIDS if I had 500 partners a year -- I'd be dead from exhaustion!"
The anti-gay arguments seem so quaint these days, but Whitworth delivered a truly chilling reminder. "This is dj vu of 1992: I don't think anyone wants to go back to the doom and gloom of that era."
It was 10 years ago next month when the Focus-supported Amendment 2 passed in Colorado, resulting in a national boycott of what was termed the Hate State. Specifically, Colorado Springs, the hometown of the state law that was eventually declared unconstitutional, was nicknamed the "Belly of the Beast."
As of press time, it appears that five of nine City Council members certainly don't want to march back in time and are supportive of Kramer's domestic partner plan. And the city manager himself is downright resolute. After all, Kramer is the former chief of police and does not take kindly to bullying from single-issue special interests.
"Quite frankly, if we created public policy by prevailing public sentiment, we'd still be back in the Dark Ages," Kramer noted.
The usually mild-mannered City Councilman Richard Skorman has no kind words for "certain Council members [who] are avoiding the real issue."
Specifically, several are trying to duck the "gay" issue entirely by claiming their opposition is solely based on the tight economy. "They're afraid to stand up and do what's right," Skorman said.
Perhaps that's because the four reported fence-sitters have also lately been busy engaging in grandiose daydreams about their political futures -- and obviously don't want to alienate a potential conservative support base like Focus on the Family.
In upcoming months, using its vast resources, maybe the ministry will be able to ferret out the following information about their good pals:
Whether Vice Mayor Lionel Rivera, a stockbroker who plans to run for mayor next April, has ever voiced opposition to the fact that his employer, Merrill Lynch, offers same-sex insurance benefits to his fellow employees;
Whether Councilwoman Sallie Clark, who is also considering a bid for mayor next April and operates the Holden House Bed & Breakfast, has ever knowingly allowed any gay or lesbian couples to cohabitate under her roof;
Whether Councilwoman Margaret Radford, a former reporter and freelance writer who reportedly is eyeing a future run for the more lucrative-paying Board of El Paso County Commissioners, has ever favorably quoted any gay or lesbian;
And, whether Councilman Charles Wingate, otherwise currently unemployed, has ever accepted a pizza from a known homosexual.
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