Senators' Remarks About Gays, HIV Angers Democrats

Schultheis Says HIV Linked To Promiscuity; Renfroe Condemns Homosexuals

The Senate backed a bill promoting HIV testing for pregnant women Wednesday over the objection of a lone senator who said the state shouldn't protect people from the consequences of their "unacceptable behavior."

Sen. Dave Schultheis, R-Colorado Springs, said HIV stemmed mainly from sexual promiscuity. He likened testing for HIV to opening day care centers in high schools to serve teenage mothers.

"We do things constantly to try to remove the negative consequences of poor behavior, unacceptable behavior, quite frankly," Schultheis told the Senate.

Sen. Jennifer Veiga, D-Denver, said she was offended by the remarks because she thought they reinforced stereotypes about gay people being sexually promiscuous. Veiga, who is a lesbian, was also upset that no other Republicans, especially Minority Leader Josh Penry, spoke out against what Schultheis had said or against remarks earlier this week by another Republican about homosexuality being an offense to God.

Penry, a co-sponsor of the HIV testing bill, voted for it along with every other senator besides Schultheis.

The measure (Senate Bill 179) requires that doctors offer to test pregnant women for HIV in their first trimester but allows women to opt out. Bill sponsor Sen. Lois Tochtrop, D-Thornton, said the aim is to start HIV treatment early to prevent unborn babies from contracting the disease.

Schultheis later explained that not protecting people from the consequences of sexual promiscuity can be more compassionate in the long run because others might end up changing how they live after seeing the impact it can have.

Penry said he backed the bill to help protect babies but said it isn't his job to weigh in on the views of other senators.

"People are entitled to their opinions. I think they're eager to gin up the outrage machine," Penry said of Democrats.

Penry said many Coloradans support the traditional view of marriage and defended the right of lawmakers to express their strongly held views.

Debate on the health benefits bill also rankled some Republicans. They objected to Senate Majority Leader Brandon Shaffer's comments suggesting that supporting the bill was the more "enlightened" stance.

Renfroe Statement Compares Gays to Murderers

On Monday, Sen. Scott Renfroe, R-Greeley, created a stir by quoting Bible verses that condemned homosexuality and compared it to murder. He made his comments during a debate over extending health insurance benefits to the partners of gay and lesbian state workers, a measure sponsored by Veiga.

Renfroe quoted several chapters and verses from Leviticus, which call homosexuality an "abomination" and a "detestable act." Renfroe said all sin, whether it's murder or homosexuality, is viewed as equal in the eyes of God.

"We would never think of making murder legal," Renfroe said. "What I'm saying that for is all sin is equal."

His statements occurred during a debate on Senate Bill 88, which would legalize health benefits for same-sex partners who are employed by the state.

Renfroe said he considers homosexuality a violation of the natural creative order, which he views as a father, a mother and children. He said SB 88 essentially "legalizes" sin.

Critics of Renfroe said his statements were inappropriate and out of line.

"It's incredibly disappointing that he turned a debate about benefits into a diatribe on his Old Testament beliefs," said Bobby Clark, deputy director of Progress Now.

The bill passed the senate and now goes to the house where it appears to have more support than opposition.

Clark said if statements equating gay people to murderers go unchecked, he believes it gives others permission to commit violence against gay people.

"I think it's extreme equating murder with homosexuality," said State Rep. Mark Ferrandino. "I think his views are extreme, and not in line with the people of this state. We should be discussing the merits of this proposal."

The bill now goes before the House. The governor has indicated he will sign the bill if it makes it to his desk.

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