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August 23, 2006

$500,000 to fight gay marriage


Focus backing state amendment

By PAUL ASAY THE GAZETTE

Colorado Springs-based Focus on the Family has spent more than $500,000 to support a constitutional amendment to block same-sex marriage in Colorado.

It’s the most an organization has spent on an issue in state elections this year — an amount that seems remarkable given that state law bans same-sex marriage.

Although it is early in the election season and campaign committees have yet to form for many issues, the fight over gay unions is shaping up to be the most expensive on the November ballot, with donors contributing more than $1.3 million to two ballot initiatives:

- Amendment 43 would define marriage as between a man and woman and place it in the Colorado Constitution. The same provision is a state law.

- Referendum I would legalize same-sex domestic partnerships, giving most of the legal rights enjoyed by heterosexual couples to gay couples.

Voters could approve the constitutional amendment barring gay marriage and approve same-sex unions in the same election.

Gay-rights advocates see Amendment 43 as little better than legalized discrimination. Social conservatives say the amendment would safeguard what they call the traditional family.

Each side has contributed more than $500,000 so far.

The Coloradans for Fairness Issue Committee, which opposes Amendment 43, collected more than $613,000 as of Aug. 2, according to campaign finance records on the Colorado secretary of state’s Web site (www.sos.state.co.us).

The committee has gathered the most money of any of the state’s 57 issues committees.

Two issues committees supporting Amendment 43 — Coloradans for Marriage and the Colorado Family Action Issue Committee — have taken in a combined $750,720, according to the Secretary of State’s Office.

Coloradans for Marriage circulated petitions to get the amendment on the ballot and has been its most visible advocate. Focus has given $55,000 to Coloradans for Marriage.

The Colorado Family Action Issue Committee — found- ed in June to support Amendment 43 and to oppose the domestic partnership proposal — has received more than twice as much money as Coloradans For Marriage. It was created with input from Focus on the Family Action, Focus’ nonprofit lobbying arm.

The Focus organizations have provided all the money for Coloradans for Marriage — $506,532 in donations and itemized, noncash contributions.

“It’s probably on the high end of contributions I’ve seen,” said Dana Williams, spokeswoman for the Colorado Secretary of State’s Office.

The money has been used to buy ads on Colorado Springs and Denver television stations that haven’t aired. Jim Pfaff, a spokesman for Colorado Family Action Issue Committee and a Focus Action official, would not say when the ads might air.

The Coloradans for Fairness Issue Committee, which opposes Amendment 43 and supports the domestic-partner initiative, received a $250,000 donation in June from gayrights advocate Jon Stryker of Kalamazoo, Mich.

Focus is known for its conservative, Christian advice for families. It’s a Christian media empire, producing books, magazines, radio programs and Web sites.

Focus founder James Dobson recently wrote: “I believe that this November’s results will have a significant impact on the future of marriage in our nation. This crucial institution is under attack, but we can turn the tide — if we are registered to vote, and we go to the polls!”

Focus has donated to initiatives elsewhere, but Pfaff declined to say how much money Focus has given to various state initiatives.

Although Colorado law places limits on how much an entity can donate to candidates or political action committees, there’s no limit on donations to issues committees.

The Internal Revenue Service limits how much most nonprofits can spend in direct lobbying. Focus attorney Jim Bopp says Focus’ limit is $750,000.

CONTACT THE WRITER: 636-0367 or

paul.asay@gazette.com

2 PROPOSALS APPROVED

The Colorado Secretary of State’s Office has approved two proposals related to same-sex unions for the November ballot.

- Amendment 43:

An amendment that would define marriage as between a man and woman.

- Referendum I:

A proposal that would legalize same-sex domestic partnerships.

Proponents of Amendment 45, an amendment that would also allow legalized same-sex domestic partnerships, pulled the amendment from the ballot Tuesday.

COMMENT ON THIS STORY (23)

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