Uncivil Unions at the Colorado Legisature

Sometimes, politics is like an unhealthy relationship. It can provide people who are intimately involved in it with the highest highs and the lowest lows. Last night was one of the lowest lows for anyone who believes in the political process in Colorado.

This blog is not about politics. But what happened last night at the Colorado capitol should be told and it should be told far and wide. You can read about it in the Denver Post or listen to the story on Colorado Public Radio. I imagine that many other news outlets will be telling this story in the days ahead.

Click here to watch the powerful Denver Post video from last night.

The Colorado legislative session is 120 days long every Spring. It is exhilarating to work in the halls under the gold dome, where the hopeful buzz of change is all around you.

The majority of the American public is disgusted with the political system and its inaction, especially on the federal level, and I can understand why. But anyone who has dedicated their lives to impacting public policy will tell you that there are very good people, who work tirelessly every day to do the right thing. Many of their stories do not make the nightly news but they are heroes.

Change is generally incremental, which can be highly frustrating for those who try to bring it about. Occasionally, a law will make it through the system that makes a large impact, like federal health reform or the smoke-free laws that have proliferated across the country. But mostly, change is a very slow process.

Every few years, people who work in the political trenches every day have their hearts broken in a spectacular way. This is what happened in Colorado last night. My heart was broken again. I thought I had learned the hard way to shield myself from that kind of disappointment. I was wrong.

Last night, the Colorado House leadership used parliamentary tactics to ensure that a civil unions bill, which they knew had the votes to pass thanks to a handful of legislators in the majority party who planned to make a courageous non-partisan vote, would never see the light of day. They filibustered and delayed, and ultimately, when the minority party tried to push the issue forward, called a recess at around 8:30 last night. The leadership did not allow anything to go forward before the clock ran out at midnight. Dozens of other bills of great import to the state of Colorado were caught up in this political maneuver and died last night as well.

Regardless of your feelings about civil unions, this was an appalling example of politics coming before policy and a complete show of disregard for the integrity of the political process. This is why people don’t want to engage in politics. I don’t blame them. Who wants to have your heart broken again and again in the name of progress?

But, in fact, this is the very reason that we all need to remain engaged and informed. Politicians are our elected officials. They are elected to represent us. We need to hold them accountable for their actions and to applaud their courage when they do the right thing.

I share this story to make sure that people are aware of events that transpired at our capitol last night. But I also share it to encourage people to get involved.

What do you think? Will this incident make you more or less willing to engage in the political process?

I’d love to hear your thoughts. And thanks for reading.

3 Comments

Filed under equality, Policy, Role of Government

3 responses to “Uncivil Unions at the Colorado Legisature

  1. UPDATE: Soon after I posted this, Governor John Hickenlooper announced that he was calling the Legislature back for a special session to finish their work. Civil Unions will be one of the bills up for consideration. While there is no guarantee that the Speaker of the House will not do everything in his power to kill the bill, I am proud of our Governor for making the bold move to call the Legislature back. He made the announcement on the same day that Obama made his historic announcement about supporting gay marriage. The arc of justice may be long, but it seemed to curve a little more this week…

  2. The only comfort that I get from the fact that the Governor had to call a special session is that, if the Speaker stonewalls this bill again, the Republicans in the House will look like a bunch of assholes (more than they already do, anyway). Something like 72% of independents in Colorado support this bill, so I don’t see how it could turn out well for the Republicans once the elections roll around.

    • I couldn’t agree more that this is going to play heavily into the elections and potentially into which party controls the Colorado House. It is sad to see how the extreme wing of the Republican party is doing so much damage to the system as a whole by creating chaos at every turn. It will be very interesting to see what unfolds in the next week or two on this. Thanks so much for your comment!

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