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Colo. Springs stops same-sex benefits; churches key to reversal, expert says

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (BP)–A recent vote in Colorado against same-sex partner benefits demonstrates the strength Christians and pro-family groups have when involved in the political process, Focus on the Family’s Glen Stanton noted.

The Colorado Springs city council eliminated health benefits for partners of homosexual city employees April 22 by an 8-1 vote — just three weeks after an election that focused heavily on the issue produced sweeping change.

During the election, six of the seven council members who won promised to eliminate the same-sex benefits. One of those six was mayor Lionel Rivera, a voting council member.

The ideological shift on the council was sharp. The same-sex benefits package had passed the city council last December by a 5-4 vote.

“That action by the city council just really mobilized the electorate here,” said Stanton, director of social research and cultural affairs at Focus on the Family.

Churches in the area and staff members at Focus on the Family — based in Colorado Springs — made their voices heard, Stanton said.

“It really should mobilize the church to see [that] the church can make a real difference, and to make a real difference by simply having their members go out and cast the one vote that they have,” he told Baptist Press. “… You can change an election. It’s what we call democracy, and it’s a wonderful thing to participate in.”

Focus on the Family put together voter’s guides and also hosted debates for the political candidates — which it has done in years past. But with the exception of its staff members casting votes and simply acting as “citizens,” the organization was not heavily involved in the election, Stanton said, noting that church members and pro-family voters were the key.

“It really was remarkable to see how relatively easy it was to change an election, as far as just mobilizing the churches to really get out there and make sure that their voice was heard,” he said.

Churches simply told their members, “Here are the issues, and here are the candidates who represent or don’t represent your issues,” Stanton added.

The election was conducted by mail-in ballots and the votes were tallied April 1.

The city is currently paying approximately $6,000 to cover same-sex benefits for seven employees, according to The Denver Post newspaper. The city’s reversal of benefits will take effect in January.

The council’s latest vote sparked a protest of about 80 people April 27, The Post reported. The lone council member who supports same-sex benefits, vice mayor Richard Skorman, addressed the crowd.

“We have our work cut out for us, but it’s a very positive challenge,” he said, according to the newspaper. “We’re right on this one.”

Four other Colorado cities offer same-sex benefits, The Post said.

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  • Michael Foust