A measure that would have let Colorado faith-based adoption agencies discriminate based on religious beliefs failed to clear the state Senate Tuesday.
Senate Bill 241 died on a voice vote on second reading, with few votes in favor and a loud chorus of "nos."
A later recorded vote showed the measure failed 16-19, with two Republicans - Sens. Don Coram of Montrose and Beth Martinez Humenik of Thorton - voting against it, along with unaffiliated Sen. Cheri Jahn of Wheat Ridge and the entire Democratic caucus. Other Republicans voted in favor.
SB 241 would have prohibited the state from acting against any person or organization that refused to provide adoption services based on their religious beliefs.
The bill's legislative intent declaration cited actions in favor of same-sex couples and against faith-based adoption agencies as its motives.
Faith-based adoption agencies have closed in other states because of their religious beliefs opposing same-sex marriage, the bill noted. SB 241 did not identify any in Colorado that closed for that reason.
The Senate sponsor, Kevin Lundberg, R-Berthoud, has pushed this session for laws that would allow discrimination against LGBTQ Coloradans under the premise of "sincerely held religious beliefs."
Lundberg told a "Religious Freedom Rally" at Colorado Christian University last November that he and his colleagues would work to change the mission of the Colorado Civil Rights Commission in the 2018 session so the panel would defend people such as Lakewood baker Jack Phillips.
In a case that has received national attention, Phillips refused to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex couple, citing his religious beliefs. The couple filed a complaint with the Division of Civil Rights, which found probable cause that Phillips violated the state's anti-discrimination laws.
The Colorado Civil Rights Commission upheld that finding, as did the Colorado Court of Appeals. Phillips appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which heard the case in December and is expected to rule within the next two months.
Lundberg was one of three Republicans on the Joint Budget Committee who voted against 2018-19 funding for the Civil Rights Commission while a bill reauthorizing that panel and the Division of Civil Rights moved through the General Assembly.
But not one lawmaker has tried to change the commission's mission to allow for discrimination against LGBTQ people because of religious beliefs. The General Assembly, through the 2018-19 budget, added amendments that restored the agency's funding for the coming year.
The bill's House sponsor, Rep. Stephen Humphrey of Severance, sponsored an earlier bill that would have allowed discrimination against same-sex couples based on religious beliefs held by individuals or religious groups.
"Do you think so little of individual liberties of the people of Colorado that you would turn a blind eye to their religious convictions?" Lundberg asked during Tuesday's debate.
Opposition was personified by Sen. Dominick Moreno, D-Commerce City, a gay member of the Joint Budget Committee.
"This issue will keep coming up again and again - this issue of my civil rights versus someone else's religious liberty," Moreno told the Senate. "As a gay man, there are still places where I'm not welcome."
At age 33, Moreno said, he's beginning to think about what his family would look like, and foster care and adoption are both options.
"I'd be a good father," he said. "If I'm willing to provide a good home, a loving and stable household for a child, what more matters than that?"
Lundberg insisted the bill would not prohibit Moreno or anyone else from adopting, as more than 260 adoption agencies are in Colorado. Only a few faith-based agencies don't serve LGBTQ people, he said.
Daniel Ramos of One Colorado, an advocacy group for LGBTQ Coloradans, cheered the Senate vote.
"The freedom of religion is important. That is why it is protected in the First Amendment of the Constitution. But no one's religion should serve as a license to discriminate in adoption, foster care or child abuse in our great state. This was another installment in a series of horrific bills we have seen this session that would take Colorado backward in the areas of LGBTQ equality, and its defeat today is a victory for the people of Colorado."