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Victory at Capitol brings hope for sea change

The last state legislative session dished up a savory victory for the local Church, said Colorado Catholic Conference director Jenny Kraska.

And it taught local Catholics they can turn up the heat on legislators.

In reflecting on the state Legislature’s last session that concluded May 7, Kraska said the failure of Senate Bill 175—which would have enshrined a “right to abortion” into law—was a victory against all odds.

“That was the pinnacle of the session. It was really shocking to have something like that happen given what we’re dealing with in the Legislature,” Kraska said.

The bill, which was expected to easily pass through the Democratic-controlled Senate, was killed after faithful inundated legislators with phone calls and emails, and came in droves to pray with Archbishop Samuel Aquila at the state Capitol.

“If there’s anything we learned from the session it’s that momentum, energy and participation is something we need to carry with us into the next legislative session and forward into the election,” she said.

This year’s session was in sharp contrast from last year when a monumental civil unions bill lacking religious liberty exemptions was passed.

Of the 620-some bills introduced this session, a couple of bills the Church supported were passed and some it opposed were defeated.

“Going into this session no one knew what to expect,” Kraska said. “As many times as there’s great victories, there’s horrible defeats.”

A bill allowing some same-sex couples to file joint state tax returns was signed into law Feb. 27.

“That definitely was not the highlight of session, but something that passed and is part of a bigger agenda,” Kraska said. “I think it was a further erosion of marriage in Colorado and what voters believe is marriage.”

The conference was also disappointed with the failure to pass a bill that would protect the religious freedom of student groups on college campuses. It failed in committee Jan. 27. Similar legislation proposed in other states was passed on bipartisan support, Kraska said.

Other issues supported by the conference found bipartisan support in the House and Senate. A bill concerning human trafficking and another that is intended to prevent wage theft passed this session.

“Both of those were huge achievements for Colorado and the people they are going to affect. It’s legislation we should be very proud of,” Kraska said.

No other faith denomination is as active as the Catholic Church at the state Capitol, she said.

“I think overall this was a positive year for involvement no matter what issues we were following,” she said. “That is sort of the beauty of the Catholic Church being involved in the public square. We are not beholden to either party and we truly do take our stance and positions based on the social teachings of Catholic Church.”

Legislative Update

The following is an update on bills the Colorado Catholic Conference (CCC) had urged for support or opposition to from legislators and the Catholic community.

Same-sex taxpayers filing joint state returns, Senate Bill 19
CCC’s position: oppose
Status: signed into law by Gov. Hickenlooper

“Right to Abortion” bill, Senate Bill 175
CCC’s position: oppose
Status: killed in Senate

Income tax credits for private education, Senate Bill 33
CCC’s position: support
Status: killed in a Senate committee

Religious freedom for college student groups, House Bill 1048
CCC’s position: support
Status: killed in a House committee

The Wage Protection Act, Senate Bill 5
CCC’s position: support
Status: passed Senate and House

Prosecution of Human Trafficking, House Bill 1273
CCC’s position: support
Status: passed House and Senate

Civil damages for termination of pregnancy, House Bill 1324
CCC’s position: oppose
Status: killed in House committee

Damages for termination of pregnancy, House Bill 1388
CCC’s position: oppose
Status: passed House and Senate

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