DENVER, Colorado " The Senate gave initial backing to expanding anti-discrimination protections for gays and lesbians on Friday.
The measure (Senate Bill 200) takes the state's current anti-discrimination laws and adds sexual orientation to the list of things, such as race or national origin, that can't be considered. It would be illegal to deny gays and lesbians everything from apartment rentals and a seat in a restaurant to burial plots.
The debate in the Senate was tense at times.
To make his argument that there isn't a record of discrimination against gay people, Sen. Greg Brophy, R-Wray, jokingly offered an amendment to change the bill into one protecting short people. Brophy, who stands 5-foot-6, then withdrew it.
Bill sponsor Sen. Jennifer Veiga, who is a lesbian, took offense.
"It must be nice to sit back as a white male and mock the discrimination many Americans feel based on sexual orientation," Veiga said.
Brophy then went to the microphone to apologize, saying he didn't mean to be offensive.
Sen. Shawn Mitchell, R-Broomfield, said civil rights legislation was passed to protect black Americans because they historically had fewer educational and economic opportunities. He said gays and lesbians generally enjoy a higher level of income and education.
Veiga said someone can still be discriminated against even if they are well-off.
Mitchell said he thought the real aim of the measure was to have the government weigh in on the side of gays and lesbians.
"This is symbolic politics elevated above real need," he said.
The bill originally would have also prohibited discrimination on the basis of religion but that was removed. Veiga said existing law already outlaws discrimination based on creed, which she said is synonymous with religion.
Last year, the Legislature passed a bill protecting gays and lesbians from being fired from their jobs because of their sexual orientation.