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Local churches enter gay-rights debate

At least three Colorado Springs churches will join a local coalition that is rallying against an amendment to the state constitution that would ban gay marriages.

"We know we won't convince James Dobson and Ted Haggard to change their minds, but there appear to be a lot of people in the Springs who haven't made up their minds on this issue," says Matthew Johnson-Doyle, a reverend at High Plains Unitarian Universalist church. "It is because of our faith that we support compassion and equality."

Coloradans for Marriage, the statewide group pushing the amendment that would limit marriage to "one man and one woman," is strongly supported by several religious groups. They include Colorado Springs evangelical leaders like Haggard, president of the National Association of Evangelicals and pastor of New Life Church, and Dobson, of Focus on the Family.

Same-sex marriage, however, is already banned under state law. Coloradans for Marriage say a constitutional amendment would prevent "activist judges" and the Legislature from ever overturning the law.

Johnson-Doyle says his church and at least two others the Metropolitan Community Church and First Congregational Church of Christ are entering the debate because they want to highlight differences of opinion among Christians regarding gay marriage.

Congregation members are expected to work alongside groups such as the Pikes Peak Justice and Peace Commission in what will be a neighborhood-to-neighborhood campaign to defeat the amendment, he adds.

The group plans to register voters at the upcoming PrideFest in Colorado Springs and to sponsor a series of local events.

The coalition is also lobbying for the passage of House Bill 1344, which would place a domestic-partnership measure on the November ballot. If passed, the measure would grant same-sex couples rights such as inheritance, health coverage and hospital visits.

Former Colorado for Family Values Chairman Will Perkins, a retired car dealer from Colorado Springs, and Rep. Kevin Lundberg, R-Berthoud, reportedly are pushing a ballot initiative to outlaw civil unions. If both pass, their proposal could nix the domestic-partnerships initiative.

deyoanna@csindy.com

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