This past Tuesday I spent my evening at the Colorado State Capital. I was eager to see the process, especially since SB 002 would have a chance to have an up or down vote. For those of you who don’t know, SB 002 is the Civil Unions bill that would have been voted on Tuesday night. It didn’t make it the floor; House Republicans called a 3 hour recess and essentially killed the bill. Not only was I frustrated, but I was also sad and perhaps a bit enraged that these are the politics we are paying for: the politics of hate and exclusion. I felt it my civil duty to respond before the Special Session gets underway.
By training, I am an ethicist. I like to think about ethics and moral reasoning in every area of life. And so, when I began to think about the ethics of the politics I saw enacted, I called it “bad ethics.” It was bad ethics because the relationality of House Republicans was rooted in exclusion. There wasn’t even an opportunity for the bill (and three dozen other bills) to be heard. These politics and ethics seem to be motivated by hate and fear. Why is that?
I’d like to tell you a story, because I think stories are useful when hot-button issues are lit up in flames (and civil unions, unfortunately) is one of those issues.
I remember when Bush was on the ballot for his 2nd term. It was time to vote. I had weighed the candidates and because I don’t tend to vote a straight ticket, I was ready to make a decision. The war was well under way and I began to think about the politics of John Kerry (and how he might respond to the war) and the politics of Bush (and the history of his inciting war). My commitment is war adverse, and at times I call myself a pacifist. I knew that the “war on terrorism” was T-H-E major issue for Americans in 2004. For me, I wondered: Do I vote for a candidate who started the war, or for a candidate who might intensify the war? I was divided on this very issue. I was so divided that I ended up not voting. I recused myself from the American political process and ended up spending the last 4 year’s of Bush’s presidency frustrated. My point here is not that “my” candidate won or didn’t win. My point here is to highlight the process. If you recall, this election was a mess, too. The war was such an issue for everyone: both those on the Right and the Left. Americans just wanted a process to be fair; a process that would hear both sides about the war. Choosing a president wouldn’t necessarily ensure that both sides would be heard, because politicians have their agendas, but we were all hopeful. And, the way that these items are heard is in Congress and Senate. The same is true for the State.
Civil unions is the same way in many ways. Both sides want a fair hearing; they want their side to be heard. The way this is accomplished is for civil unions to be debated in the legislature. When the House recessed, that initiated a domino effect: silence in all forms, except when supporters of civil unions cried out “shame on you!” Regardless of your position on the matter of civil unions for Lesbian and Gay couples, you can imagine that both those in favor and opposed would like to have their side heard. The way this happens is in the legislature, not in recesses where votes cannot be counted and support not measured.
The politics of this state, the State of Colorado, perpetuated long-standing politics of hate and exclusion when House Republicans called for recess. Lesbian and Gay folks know these politics well. This bill should be heard for the process to complete itself. Lesbian and Gay citizens should be able to trust their elected officials to allow for a process, not the game of bad ethics.
I’m hoping for a process to take place for the Special Session, a process where Speaker of the House, Frank McNulty, allows for the real process of politics to unfold. Whatever happens, it is my great hope for this state to invite the process of inclusion.
The politics of our state should not be the politics of hate and exclusion. When it is, it is our duty to speak up and be counted.
Shame on you, Colorado, for refusing the process.