DENVER - A proposed ballot question aims to overturn Colorado's constitutional ban on gay marriage, which was enacted by voters in 2006.
The ban on gay marriage is at the core of the disagreement over whether to grant gay couples most of the rights of marriage under state law.
Opponents of civil unions have repeatedly stated that they prefer to have the issue of rights for gay couples decided by a vote of the people.
"We have said this all along," said Rep. Amy Stephens (R-Monument). "That's the proper place for it. I really do believe that. The people spoke in '06. It should go back to the people."
Whatever fate awaits the proposed ballot question, supporters of gay rights say they're going to keep working on civil unions.
"The soonest [a public vote] could be done is the 2014 general election," said Sen. Pat Steadman (D-Denver). "In the interim there are very real families that desperately need the protections the civil unions legislation would afford them."
Initiative one, filed with the independent staff of the legislature this week would add one simple line of language to the state constitution: "A union of one man and one woman, one man and one man, and one woman and woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in this state."
The language will be reviewed and possibly modified by the proponents, who include a 17-year-old from Gunnison.
Activists pushing for civil unions say they're not throwing their efforts into a ballot question, at least not yet.
In fact, supporters hope that civil unions will pave the way for gay marriage. The thinking goes that allowing gay couples to be up-front about their relationships will dampen social stigma around homosexuality.
The word "marriage" does matter to several gay people.
"They never once fantasized about what they would be wearing at the day of their civil union ceremony," Steadman said. "It just isn't part of our psyche. It's not part of our culture to the same extent that marriage is."
Politically speaking, polls from last year show less than 50 percent support among Colorado voters for gay marriage. An April 2012 poll from Public Policy Polling found 47 percent support.
Still, opponents aren't sure that a question to legalize gay marriage would fail in November 2014.
"I don't know. I think you have polling that suggests culture is changing and I think it would be close," Stephens said. "I don't know."
The proposed ballot question is not yet ready to be circulated for signatures. The legislature's staff will hold a meeting to examine the question on February 11.
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