Equality & Colorado Values
The clause in our Declaration of Independence that states “all men are created equal” should be a guiding principle for a universal promise of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness in our country. All Coloradans hold those values dear. In spite of how far we have come in pursuit of this principle, some parts of our society are still marginalized and unable to achieve their own American Dreams. I will continue my work in the U.S. Senate to protect the civil rights and homegrown values of all Coloradans — no matter their race, color, gender, age or sexual orientation — as we pursue a more perfect union where all Americans have equal access to opportunity.
With the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act, we’ve made great strides toward equality for all Coloradans. But despite overturning DOMA, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is not recognizing all legal same-sex marriages. Two Colorado residents, one of whom served in the Air Force for 10 years and was deployed four times, were recently denied federal VA benefits, even though they were lawfully married in a state that allows same-sex marriage. Servicemembers, veterans and their families deserve respect and support during and after their service and this kind of discrimination is simply unacceptable. That’s why I have asked the president to work with the VA to take immediate action to correct this injustice and ensure all veterans can access the benefits they have earned.
I co-sponsored the Uniting American Families Act of 2013 (S.296) to ensure that all Americans, regardless of sexual orientation, receive equal treatment under immigration laws. This bill specifically allows partners and children of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents to obtain lawful permanent resident status the same way heterosexual spouses can. It would allow for family-based immigration for gay and lesbian Americans and the reunification of families, which strengthens our communities and society.
In 1870, the Bureau of Indian Affairs began to build and operate an irrigation system that now comprises 175 miles of canals and ditches to deliver water to tribal and non-tribal users. Unfortunately, after decades ofneglect and deferred maintenance, the system is failing many of its users and putting more than 12,000 acres of agricultural land at risk. In order to find a solution that helps all users of the system, I introduced the Pine River Indian Irrigation Project Act. The bill would require the U.S. Secretary of the Interior to assess the current condition of the Project and then take appropriate action to rehabilitate it. It is important that we protect and make efficient use of one of Colorado’s most valuable resources: water. This is why I pushed the Senate Indian Affairs Committee to conduct a hearing on this important issue. The hearing took place on April 29, 2010. I will continue to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to bring adequate attention to this important issue.