Stand up for facts and support PolitiFact.
Now is your chance to go on the record as supporting trusted, factual information by joining PolitiFact’s Truth Squad. Contributions or gifts to PolitiFact, which is part of the 501(c)(3) nonprofit Poynter Institute, are tax deductible.
I would like to contribute
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee said GOP vice presidential nominee Mike Pence and Colorado Republican Rep. Mike Coffman oppose gay rights.
A July 20 DCCC news release says that Coffman, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and Pence make for an "extreme" ticket and Trump and Coffman "share many of the same dangerous ideas." It compares Coffman’s and Pence’s record on eight different issues, from the minimum wage to abortion.
The implication is that Pence and Coffman share the same positions, including on gay rights.
"Trump’s VP pick also makes perfect sense for Coffman, given that they take the same positions on a number of things like ... Coffman and Pence oppose equal rights for LGBT Americans," the release states.
PolitiFact dug into the claim that Pence and Coffman "take the same positions" in their opposition to equal rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans.
The DCCC release tries to back up its claim by saying when Pence was an Indiana congressman in 2007, he said the Employment Non-Discrimination Act -- a bill known as ENDA that sought to prohibit employment discrimination against gay people -- "wages war on freedom of religion in the workplace."
The release failed to mention that Coffman took a different approach; he co-sponsored a 2013 version of ENDA. In other words, Coffman supported legislation to prohibit workplace discrimination based on "sexual orientation or gender identity" that Pence opposed in 2007.
We asked about the omission, and a DCCC spokesman said "that was just for space" given that the release was running five-pages long.
The news release cited Coffman’s opposition to same-sex marriage, referring to Denver Post coverage of a 2014 election debate where he said, "Certainly I believe marriage is between a man and a woman. Ultimately it’s going to be up to the voters of Colorado to make that decision. I will respect as a member of Congress whatever decision that they make."
In a series of yes-or-no questions, Coffman answered "no" when asked, "Should Colorado recognize same-sex marriage?" He also replied "yes" when asked, "Do you support Colorado’s ban on same-sex marriage?"
After the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June 2015 that the Constitution guarantees a right to same-sex message, some Colorado Republican lawmakers condemned the decision. Coffman, however, said in a statement, "The world is changing, and while I’ve supported traditional marriage, the court has ruled a ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional. It is time we move forward and focus on the big debates of our day — how to keep our country safe and get Americans back to work."
Coffman’s spokeswoman, Cinamon Watson, dismissed the DCCC attack as "a bald-faced lie," saying Coffman is "no Mike Pence" on gay rights. She directed us to praise of Coffman by an array of LGBT organizations and Democratic flip-flopping on gay marriage by President Barack Obama and presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.
Supporting gay rights
Coffman does have a mixed record on support for LGBT rights, which some attribute to the 2011 redistricting of his 6th Congressional District, which shifted from staunchly conservative to a more diverse, middle-of-the-road swath of Denver suburbs.
Gay advocacy groups have lauded Coffman for taking certain stands. Examples include:
- In 2015, One Colorado commended Coffman for co-sponsoring the Veteran Spouses Equal Treatment Act, to ensure that "all military families have equal access to the benefits they earned serving our country -- even if they do not live in a state with marriage equality."
- In September 2014, the Log Cabin Republicans PAC endorsed Coffman as one of its "strongest allies in Washington," including his co-sponsorship of anti-workplace discrimination legislation and support for renewal of the Violence Against Women Act, which for the first time included protection of LGBT people.
- In February 2016, the American Unity Fund praised Coffman for becoming the first Republican to co-sponsor the Juror Non-Discrimination Act, which prohibits excluding someone from serving on a jury based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
He was also the only Republican to co-sponsor the Freedom from Discrimination in Credit Act of 2015, which seeks to expand the Equal Credit Opportunity Act to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. In addition, he voted for the Peters’ Amendment, which prohibits discrimination in federal transportation and housing programs and passed the House with strong bipartisan support.
Coffman’s support for LGBT rights contrasts with Mike Pence’s hard-line stand on social issues.
In April 2015, Coffman was one of eight Republicans who penned a letter to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights praising the agency's first-ever briefing dedicated to discrimination against LGBT Americans, The Hill reported. The letter came in the aftermath of the controversy over an Indiana religious freedom law signed by Pence, who later signed a revised measure facing business boycotts and a firestorm of criticism.
"(Coffman) is as not as extreme as Mike Pence, and I would say not many people are as extreme as Mike Pence," Austin Montoya, spokesman for One Colorado, told PolitiFact.
Opposing gay rights
Coffman has taken other positions, though, that advocates of gay rights don’t like.
Montoya cited Coffman’s votes against repealing the military’s "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" policy, and his support of the Defense of Marriage Act (before the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the law that denied federal benefits to same-sex couples in 2013).
And while Coffman did co-sponsor the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which failed to become law, Montoya noted that Coffman has not co-sponsored the more expansive Equality Act, which would amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to include discrimination protection based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
A DCCC news release said, "Coffman and Pence oppose equal rights for LGBT Americans." The release stated that Coffman and Pence "take the same positions on a number of things," including on gay rights.
DCCC and other critics have a point in saying Coffman opposed same-sex marriage, repealing the military’s "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" policy and he supported the Defense of Marriage Act.
But he has backed legislation to protect gay Americans from discrimination in the workplace, in securing credit, in federal transportation and housing programs and in military benefits. Advocacy groups have praised Coffman’s support on some protections and said he is not as steadfast an opponent as Pence.
We found several examples where the pair do not align. We rate this claim Mostly False.
Rep. Mike Pence news release, "PENCE SAYS ENDA ‘WAGES WAR ON FREEDOM OF RELIGION IN THE WORKPLACE’ ," November 7, 2007 (Accessed via Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine)
Congress.gov, Co-sponsors of the "Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2013."
Denver Post, "Mike Coffman, Andrew Romanoff clash on style and substance in debate," September, 23, 2014
"Coffman Statement on SCOTUS Gay Marriage Ruling," Jun 26, 2015
One Colorado, Facebook post commends Rep. Coffman for co-sponsoring the Veteran Spouses Equal Treatment Act," March 26, 2015
Human Rights Campaign, "House Rules Committee Rejects Vote on Amendment Safeguarding LGBT Protections in Federal Contracting," May 18, 2016
Roll Call, "LGBT Provision Divides GOP," May 17, 2016.
Colorado Independent, "Video: LGBT Republicans deem Rep. Mike Coffman their "Superfriend" — and dress him up in a cape," October 14, 2015
Log Cabin Republicans, "Log Cabin Republicans PAC Announces First Wave of Endorsements," September 17, 2014
Denver Post, "Gay Republicans honor Mike Coffman, while Democrats challenge his record on issues," September 17, 2014
American Unity Fund, tweet praising Rep. Coffman as the first Republican to co-sponsor of the Juror Non-Discrimination Act, February 2, 2016
Congress.gov, Co-sponsors for the Juror Non-Discrimination Act of 2015
Congress.gov, Co-sponsors for the Freedom from Discrimination in Credit Act of 2015
Rep. Scott Peters’ press release, "Rep. Peters Fights for LGBT Non-Discrimination in Federal Transportation and Housing Programs," June 10, 2015
House.gov, Roll Call Vote Peters’ Amendment H.R. 2577, June 9, 2015
New York Times, "Between the Lines of the Defense of Marriage Act Opinion," June 26, 2013
Interviewed Tyler Law of the DCCC, July 22, 2016
Interviewed Austin Montoya of One Colorado, July 26, 2016
Read About Our Process
In a world of wild talk and fake news, help us stand up for the facts.