WASHINGTON — Colorado Republicans and conservatives have seen courts rule on same-sex issues for two decades, they know how they decide, and they still disagree with the result.
Hours after the Supreme Court struck down a key provision of the Defense of Marriage Act and failed to affirm a pro-traditional-marriage California initiative, two Colorado House Republicans suggested the twin rulings disappointed but did not surprise them.
“We always knew (the twin rulings) was one of the possibilities, but Colorado has a provision on marriage,” Rep. Cory Gardner of Yuma said in an interview, referring to the ban on gay marriage the state’s voters approved nine years ago.
“Congressman Tipton continues to believe that the definition of marriage should be left to the people and their elected representatives at the state level,” the Cortez Republican said in a statement.
Jim Daly, president of the Colorado Springs-based Focus on the Family, said he too was disappointed by the rulings, but warned traditional marriage supporters that the decisions “should not elicit a spirit of despair.” He noted the high court stopped short of creating a federal constitutional right to same-sex marriage as it did for abortion in 1973, for example.
Colorado conservatives’ reactions were the mirror opposite of the state’s Democrats and liberals.
“Victor for equality!” Rep. Diana DeGette of Denver wrote on her Twitter feed about the court’s 5-4 decision in United States v. Windsor, which struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, a 1996 law she voted “nay” in the House of Representatives.
“Every couple should be able to make a public affirmation to their communities, families, and friends what their shared commitment and responsibilities to the person they love, regardless of their sexual orientation,” Sen. Mark Udall said in a statement.
Before the high court announced its decisions Wednesday, former Sen. Wayne Allard, a Colorado Republican, suggested he felt vindicated partly by recent events relating to same-sex marriage.
State legislatures in Minnesota, Delaware, and Rhode Island voted to legalize same-sex nuptials, while Illinois’ avoided a vote. Colorado lawmakers approved a civil unions bill in the spring.
“Even though we did not win, we got our message across,” Allard said in an interview, referring to a constitutional amendment he sponsored in the Senate from 2004 to 2007.
The result of a recent New York Times-CBS poll lent credence to the belief. According to the survey, 60 percent of Americans said states should decide same-sex marriage, while 33 percent said the federal government should.
The Supreme Court’s decisions halted that momentum.
For Colorado conservatives and Republicans, the rulings harken to the 1990s, an era when courts overrode the decision of voters on gay rights. The Colorado Supreme Court and later, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Amendment 2, a constitutional amendment the state’s voters approved in 1992.
In the 2000s, Colorado conservatives and Republicans sought to buck the trend toward court-imposed decisions on gay rights. In 2004, they succeeded in passing a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage.
Also, former U.S. Representative Marilyn Musgrave and Sen. Allard sponsored constitutional amendments to let Congress and state legislatures decide the issue. But neither measure mustered sufficient support in the House or Senate.
The high court’s decision not to find a broad constitutional right to same-sex marriage is likely to impact Colorado politics. Gay-rights supporters said they will seek to legalize same-sex marriage in the Centennial State, while conservatives said they would seek to reaffirm traditional marriage.