I’ve lost track of all the accusations that have flown back and forth over the past six months between El Paso Reps. Amy Stephens and Marsha Looper, but the latest is a pretty extreme one. An email has been circulating around El Paso County Republicans that says House Majority Leader Stephens, R-Monument, has been conniving to pass a referendum that would put a pro-gay rights measure on the November ballot.
Looper, R-Calhan, is locked in a primary with Stephens in House District 19, because new reapportionment boundaries drawn late last year shoved the two incumbents into the same district.
The email, written by Looper supporter Jen Raiffie, says Stephens has worked out a deal with Speaker Frank McNulty, R-Highlands Ranch, and millionaire gay activist Tim Gill, to place the gay rights initiative before voters. The measure, the email says, would remove an amendment in the state Constitution that prohibited legal protections for gays. The amendment was approved by voters in 1992, but was ruled unconstitutional in 1996 by the U.S. Supreme Court.
The email charges Stephens of dealing to allow the ballot measure to move forward, in exchange for Gill’s good will over House Republicans killing the controversial civil unions bill.
“This seems to be a Bait N Switch by Frank McNulty and Amy Stevens in the House,” the email reads. “Tim Gill really wants this passed, more so than the civil union bill taking up all the attention. (Decoy!)”
“This will keep Tim Gill happy and all of the gay rights activist who contributed to Amy’s campaign. This must be why she and Frank were seen gigling in chambers yesterday like school children who knew this big secret,” the email reads.
Stephens issued a press release on Saturday and said the email was full of lies.
“I call upon Marsha Looper to put aside her political fabrications and misinformation campaign and work with me to pull our party together to defeat this terrible legislation,” Stephens wrote, referring to the civil unions bill.
House Minority Leader Mark Ferrandino, D-Denver, who is sponsoring the ballot referendum in the House, said Raiffie had no idea what she was talking about. The proposed ballot measure, he said, would simply remove language from the Constitution that is already obsolete, because it was struck down by the courts. It’s not even a gay rights issue, he said.
“This is absurd,” Ferrandino said. “Rep. Stephens has been the strongest opponent of this civil unions. She’s been working to kill it on procedural measures, because it would pass on the floor of the House.”
Even Looper dismissed Raiffie’s email.
“This email is not connected to our campaign, but someone did forward it to me,” Looper said. “I have heard similar rumors, but rumors are not productive during our last few days of this legislative session.”