Gazette repeated GOP talking point that state Democrats focus on “divisive social bills”

An article in The Gazette about a state bill that would ban workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation uncritically parroted a right-wing talking point that Democratic legislators emphasize “divisive social topics” rather than “issues important to the state.” But the article did not cite examples of “divisive” Republican legislation, such as the public school “religious bill of rights.” It also did not mention health care and education measures approved as part of Gov. Bill Ritter's agenda, despite reporting GOP criticism about those issues.

Reporting on state Democrats' preliminary approval of Senate Bill 25, which would “bar workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation,” The Gazette of Colorado Springs on April 17 uncritically repeated the conservative talking point that legislative Democrats are “pushing divisive social topics instead of issues important to the state.” However, The Gazette failed to mention any of the “divisive social topics” that Republicans have sponsored during the current legislative session, including a statewide ban on almost all abortions and a so-called “religious bill of rights” for public schools with a provision that would have held school board members personally liable if they did not enforce the measure had it become law. The report also did not mention several significant measures that lawmakers have passed as part of Democratic Gov. Bill Ritter's legislative agenda.

According to the article by Ed Sealover, “Senate Democrats gave preliminary approval Monday to a bill that would bar workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation. The vote was denounced by Republicans, who accused them of pushing divisive social topics instead of issues important to the state.” The article further reported:

Several GOP senators charged that Democrats -- who control the House, Senate and governor's mansion this year for the first time in more than four decades -- are ramming through divisive social bills.

The accusation is the same one Democrats made when Republicans ran the Capitol in 2004.

The preliminary passage of Veiga's bill came four days after the Senate approved a measure allowing gay couples and other unmarried people to adopt their partners' children, and two weeks after it approved a bill barring school districts from teaching abstinence-only sex education.

“The Democrats promised if they were ever in the majority, they would concentrate on issues that were important to all Coloradans and not introduce divisive social issues,” Senate Minority Leader Andy McElhany, R-Colorado Springs, said after floor debate ended. “I haven't seen many substantial bills on health care or education, but I've seen plenty of these.”

The April 17 report echoed a March 7 Gazette article by Sealover (updated online March 28) that repeated Sen. Nancy Spence's (R-Centennial) claim that Democrats were introducing “divisive social measure[s]” at the expense of “more pressing problems.” However, Colorado Media Matters at that time cited numerous examples of Republican-sponsored legislation that also could be considered “divisive” -- including the “religious bill of rights” for public schools, a ban on almost all abortions in the state, and a bill that sought to revise the statutory definition of murder to make “killing a fetus in certain circumstances a class 1 felony.”

Further, contrary to McElhany's claim that he hasn't “seen many substantial bills on health care or education,” Colorado Media Matters has noted several Democratic-sponsored measures focusing on health care (here and here) and education (here, here, and here).

In addition, The Rocky Mountain News on April 17 listed several major Democratic legislative accomplishments in an article about Ritter's first 100 days in office.