20 March 2013: Colorado should return to forefront

Colorado should return to the forefront

Last Tuesday, the Colorado House voted to approve civil unions for same-sex couples.  On Wednesday, the picture on the front page of the Denver Post showed Speaker Mark Ferrandino kissing his partner.  Like the photo of the gay couple kissing after one’s return from Iraq, it is iconic.

The vote was in the tradition of Colorado progressivism, a history that can be traced to being the first state—in 1893—to award women the right to vote.  In 1920, the rest of the U.S. caught up with the forward vision of Colorado citizens by approving the 19th Amendment that gave women the franchise nationally.

Interesting footnote: It took another 32 to 54 years for seven states of the Old Confederacy to give consent to the national law despite it being in force in their states.

In 1967 Colorado became the first state to legalize abortion in the cases of rape and incest.  In 1973, the Supreme Court validated the wisdom of the people of Colorado in its Roe v. Wade decision.

Colorado had rightfully earned a reputation of being a ground-breaking and forward-looking state in the tradition of the live-and-let-live West despite several dark historical moments including the Sand Creek and Ludlow Massacres.

In 1977 with the rise of the fundamentalist right, however, led in large part by James Dobson’s Focus on the Family sited—no surprise—in Colorado Springs, we went off track.

In 1992, we passed Amendment 2, which would’ve allowed apartment and home owners to refuse to rent to same-sex persons, an action that earned us a new moniker: “Hate State.”  In 1996, The U.S. Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional.

In 2006, we passed Amendment 43 that defines marriage between a man and woman, which probably means that if one of two original hetero partners has a sex-change operation after saying “I do,” they’re not legally married, which puts interestingly enough fundamentalists in a conundrum by acknowledging that what God created—man or women—man can alter.  Either that or the “married couple” partners share similar body parts.

Currently before the Supreme Court is a challenge to California’s Proposition 8, which if overturned, probably spells doom for every other state’s prohibition to same-sex marriage, including Colorado’s.  Even if it doesn’t, the likelihood of Amendment 43 staying permanently in the Colorado constitution is slim to none.  As we oldies die off, open-minded generations are in line to take our place.

History shows that when Colorado voters align with progressive notions, we break ground and serve as a model for the rest of the country.   When we follow the forces of bigotry, fear, and intolerance, bad things happen.

Due to bad things happening, Colorado is out front again approving—assuming Gov. Hickenlooper signs each into law—five common sense gun control measures:

  • Removing weapons from those with domestic violence convictions or restraining orders
  • Banning online certification for concealed weapons
  • Mandating criminal background checks on all gun sales
  • Requiring those undergoing a background check for a gun purchase to pay for it, which as Rep. Claire Levy points out is more of a budget concern.
  • Limiting to 15 a maximum number of rounds a gun can hold.

Only two measures failed to gain legislative approval: banning concealed weapons on campus, so guns and frat party keggers are permitted to continue to mix, and holding manufacturers of objects designed to inflict great harm harmless even though we don’t accord the same privilege to producers of tobacco, a long-term killer.  We made them pay but they are still doing killer business.

Still, five out of seven: not a bad day’s work for our legislature.

With regard to the civil unions’ enactment, Colorado is hardly out in front as it had and has been on women’s rights; nevertheless, we’re the 18th state to give it its nod.

What would be truly ground breaking is repealing Amendment 43, removing once and for all bigotry and hate from our constitution and restoring it where it belongs: in the hearts and minds of mean-spirited and narrow-minded zealots who will never rest until everyone thinks and acts just as they hypocritically do.

Enacting common sense gun laws and instituting civil unions, potentially repealing Amendment 43 and abolishing the death penalty, a strong push for which is also on the legislative agenda, , Colorado will be a far, far better place to live.

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