Rep. Marsha Looper (R-El Paso) has said that she is "very disappointed" by a an e-mail sent by her campaign manager Lana Fore-Warkocz that praised Looper for voting against Colorado's civil unions bill and referenced Looper's own gay son in the process, The Denver Post first reported.
"I'm very, very disappointed," Looper told The Denver Post after the e-mail made the rounds amongst El Paso County voters. "I am disappointed that my campaign manager forwarded an e-mail that would include any member of my family in policy discussions. My opinions, financials and policies are appropriate discussions for the campaign, however my family members' personal lives are not a legitimate avenue for my campaign, or any other campaign to discuss."
The Advocate reported that Fore-Warkocz e-mail to El Paso voters exclaimed, "Praise God!" for the fact that Looper voted against civil unions and for Looper's amending of Senate Bill 2 to "protect" religious organizations "from harm." The e-mail went on to state, "God is truly to be praised for Marsha Looper because she also has a homosexual son."
Looper faces House majority leader and fellow Colorado Republican Amy Stephens in the upcoming June 26 primary and the battle for who is more conservative has become heated since the two were put into the same district after December's reapportionment.
Just days before the scandal broke, John Schroyer of The Colorado Springs Gazette reported that Stephens and Looper have been at each other's throats throughout 2012 after years of being on good terms with one another. Looper has called Stephens a disguised liberal, causing Stephens to respond that Looper is both a liar and an opportunist.
How this e-mail gaffe might affect the race seems unclear due to Stephens' own anti-civil unions sentiments. Stephens even penned a column for The Gazette in May, after Gov. John Hickenlooper called a special session to readdress several Republican killed bills including the civil unions bill. In that column Stephens clearly states her opposition to civil unions and gay marriage:
As a wife, mother, citizen and legislator, I oppose this bill and any future attempt to undermine one-man, one-woman marriage in this state for several reasons. First, as we’ve seen in many states, a vote for civil unions is a vote for judicial chaos. Civil unions are a legal stepping stone to usher in same-sex marriage, regardless of established, contradicting state laws.
However, Looper's vote against civil unions came as somewhat of a surprise. Last year, when a similar civil unions bill was introduced, Looper appeared supportive as long as the bill was not gay marriage, according to The Denver Post's Lynn Bartels.
But given the competitive battle between Looper and Stephens for State House District 19, Looper is likely wanting to shore up her conservative base with moves like these.
Looper is the second Republican lawmaker who has a gay son and who also voted against civil unions in Colorado -- during a special legislative session where the civil unions bill was readdressed by the legislature, Rep. Don Coram (R-Montrose) also voted against the civil unions bill despite his having a son, Dee, who is gay.
After the votes were cast and Colorado's civil unions bill died again at the hands of Republicans, Dee Coram told The Denver Post about his disappointment in his father's vote, "I was told by my grandfather, there's always a time to lead and there's always a time to follow. He was given a time to lead, and he didn't do it. He could have and should have been the deciding vote."
Looper and Coram are two of at least four House Republicans that have a gay child, but The Denver Post reports that in the past it has always been an unwritten rule that the lawmaker themselves should be the one to reveal that information to the public.
Don Coram brought up his own gay son during the proceedings himself, to which Dee commented on in Westword saying, "I've always stayed out of the issues, but once it was brought up in the session by my father, he kind of thrust me into the limelight."
However, Looper did not bring up her own gay son during the civil unions vote and he was not covered by local media during the special session either, so it very likely came as a surprise to Looper's constituents who received her campaign manager's e-mail.
Looper criticized the special session in May, but praised the bill's death, the Colorado Statesman reported, "I am disappointed that we had to have a special session in the first place. I think it’s a complete lack of leadership that the bill made it through three committees and then on the last day — and I oppose civil unions — but if the leadership was intent on killing the bill in the first place, it should have gone to State Affairs weeks ago instead of dragging it out like this. I agree with the decision to kill the bill, but I am disappointed in the process.”
Stephens, in a surprising and ironic admission, appeared to understand that the fallout from killing the civil unions bill and debate that has followed will ultimately hurt the GOP, ColoradoPols first reported.