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Party-line vote kills Klingenschmitt's religious freedom bill

February 8, 2016 Updated: February 8, 2016 at 6:20 pm
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DENVER - Leaders of a number of Colorado Springs churches said Monday in a House committee hearing that they fear being forced to perform marriage ceremonies for same sex couples against their religious beliefs.

Pastor James Hagan, founder of Friendship Assembly of God Church, asked members of the House State, Veterans, and Military Affairs Committee to pass House Bill 1123 and protect his ability to refuse to perform same sex marriages.

The bill, introduced by Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt, R-Colorado Springs, would have added language to the state's anti-discrimination ordinance exempting clergy and religiously affiliated organizations from participating in ceremonies that conflict with a deeply held religious belief.

"You should not be forced by the government to participate in someone else's religious ceremony," Klingenschmitt said. "In exiting law churches are exempt from the nondiscrimination statute as placed of public accommodation, but they are not exempted if a church is a group of people. My bill would add clergymen and the people who work inside that church."

The bill failed on a party-line vote, with five Democrats in opposition. Rep. Max Tyler, D-Lakewood, said the bill was unnecessary.

"It's protected currently," he said. "We are being asked that one person's religion can take precedence over everyone else's."

Rep. Su Ryden, D-Aurora, said she appreciates clergy-members' concerns about religious freedom following last year's Supreme Court ruling that marriage is a constitutional right. But Ryden said House Bill 1123 was "way too broad."

As written, the bill could have allowed anyone who declared affiliation with a religious organization to deny services based on sexual orientation.

Klingenschmitt tried to tackle the issue last year as well, with a bill aimed at a specific case in Colorado where the courts ordered bakers to make a cake for a gay wedding despite claims by the baker that it was against his religious beliefs.

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Contact Megan Schrader: 286-0644

Twitter @CapitolSchrader

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