Eight states are voting on whether to ban same-sex marriages, but in none of them does the issue feel quite as loaded as it is today in Colorado, just days after news broke that pastor Ted Haggard, the former head of the National Association of Evangelicals, had conducted a three-year relationship here with a male escort.
In the peach-painted atrium of Pike's Peak Community College's Rampart Range campus -- Haggard's precinct, where he has yet to appear -- same-sex marriage seems to be what's bringing people to the polls today. That, and the book fair sharing the giant room, where a woman in a whole lotta denim is selling texts for "Christian inspiration."
Two of Haggard's parishioners, Tim Singer and his wife, Alicia, say they usually have to drag themselves to vote. This year, they couldn't wait. "Amendment 43 is half the reason why," said Tim. "And Referendum I," which would grant rights and responsibilities to same-sex couples, though without allowing marriage, per se, "is the other."
The Singers say their neighbors, also members of the New Life Church, who share their voting practices, were all headed to the polls today for the exact same reason they were. Not to vote Republican candidate Doug Lamborn into a congressional seat, or to stem the tides sweeping Democrat Bill Ritter into the governor's mansion, but "the gay thing," as Alicia said, plain and simple.
"My kid said to me, 'Mom. What's wrong with the world? Now we gotta vote about gay stuff?'" Alicia snorts. "It's disgusting that we should even have to think about this," she sighed. "We're just tired of it all. Not Pastor Ted, way back before that."
"Yeah, I'm not just voting because of Ted," said Tim, shaking his spiked blond hair. "I'm voting because of Rosie O'Donnell. No one pisses me off more than her. This gay stuff has gotta stop."
Diane Hoover, a poll watcher here, says some voters have stepped forward with concerns about their paper ballots, reporting mysterious highlighter markings on the Amendment 43 section of the ballot. It's unclear if the marks were meant to be over specific words. She's worried that the ballots won't scan properly because of the marks, and is investigating the problem, but has yet to hear back from a state supervisor.
Hoover, incidentally, used to work for Republican Sen. James Harvey in the 1960s, but has since "converted" to being a Democrat, since she can't stand the way the religious right has taken over the GOP, or her town, she says. "It used to mean something very different to be a Republican than this business," waving a hand in the direction of Haggard's megachurch New Life across the street from the voting booths. She voted against the ban.
Same-sex marriage bans have passed in every one of the 20 states that have previously included the issue on ballots.