Q&A: Don Coram's Dilemma

The Republican state representative—whose son is gay—voted against a bill that would have allowed civil unions for Colorado's same-sex couples.
May 16 2012, 10:13 AM

To say that Representative Don Coram cast the deciding vote to kill a bill that would have allowed civil unions for same-sex couples in Colorado is a bit shortsighted—after all, he was one of five Republican lawmakers on Monday who voted against the measure in a special state House subcommittee. But what made Coram's vote so interesting was his personal life: His son, Dee, is gay.

Coram, who represents Colorado's southwest House District 58, talked to 5280 yesterday about his vote and the issue of civil unions in the state—a topic he calls "a political football" that is being used to divide Colorado during an election year.

And the decision might have divided his own home in the process. Dee Coram, who is 44 and lives in his father's district, told the Denver Post that his father "was given a time to lead, and he didn't do it."

5280: Considering that your son is gay, was this a hard vote for you?

Coram: Absolutely. It was a difficult decision, and my son needed to know where I was coming from. I had talked to him ahead of time, so he knew where I stood on this.

He knows that the part that bothered me about this bill was the use of the term "spouse." A spouse is defined in Colorado as a man and a woman who are married. The bill described the dissolution of a marriage the same way as it would be for a married couple. The word "spouse" was referred to 29 times in this. To me, that makes this a same-sex-marriage bill.

5280: Was that an uncomfortable talk to have with your son?

It was not a difficult discussion to have. My son is an incredible young man.

I simply reaffirmed my reasons, and that he is just one of 75,000 people I represent, and a majority of them were not in favor of this bill. I have to vote my district. When I came [to the state House] I was not elected to cast my personal vote.

5280: So if you were just Don Coram, and not an elected representative, you would have gone the other way?

I support [civil unions] to some degree. I really don't care, but I'm not in favor of same-sex marriage.

Coloradans voted in 2006 [to define marriage as being between a man and a woman]. From a constitutional standpoint, if the votes are out there to change the constitution, I can live with that, also. I don't think it's right to invalidate the votes of more than 1 million people, but if [the bill's proponents] want to do that, they can try.

5280: Do you think your vote will hurt your relationship with your son?

I don't think so. It hasn't so far.

5280: For you, this was simply a matter of being more generic with the bill's wording?

I wouldn't have had a problem with this, not at all, if this bill didn't use the word "spouse."

I've asked the questions many times in my district: Do you support civil unions? The answer is yes. Then I ask if they support gay marriage. The answer is overwhelmingly no. This was a same-sex-marriage bill.

5280: Obviously, you think the special session was called for political reasons.

This was a total waste of time. [The vote] was something that didn't need to happen, but we were called back here [for a special session] because of civil unions. The fact that the bill was held in the Senate for 108 days means that this was designed to make a big impact at the last minute and make a ruckus and be political. I think it's being used as a political football.

5280: A lot has been made about how Colorado Republicans might have hurt themselves over this. Do you think this position could damage the party, at least in the short-term?

Not in my part of the state. And Republicans don't win in Denver anyway.

In November, frankly, this will be a moot point. People are going to be concentrating on jobs and on the economy.

Image via Shutterstock.