Guest Columns

HUDSON: THE DAY OF RECKONING LIES AHEAD

Republican “liberty” concerns unfortunately don’t seem to extend to actual people

Contributing Columnist

During its Extraordinary Special Session, House Republicans in the Colorado Legislature flubbed the opportunity to demonstrate that their opposition to the jack-booted thuggery of the ‘nanny’ state extends beyond the virtual persons constituted in corporations. Early in the regular session, they were swift to rush to the defense of oil and gas drillers unreasonably required to consult with landowners prior to invading the backyards of Colorado residents.

Regulatory requirements that these petroleum buccaneers exercise reasonable care to safeguard surface waters and limit the noxious toxins they release were libeled as ‘job killing,’ bureaucratic interference with the divine workings of the marketplace. A modest demand that banks prove they own properties they are foreclosing proved yet another regulatory burden which offended Republican legislators’ refined sense of privilege and corporate freedom.

The sanctity of contracts struck with payday lenders and predatory mortgage brokers have also appealed to the tender mercies of these elected tribunes of the people. There is apparently no opportunity for profit, however dubious in its ethical conception or legal execution, they won’t rush to defend as a sacred right worthy of vigilant defense against regulatory tampering. Cultural tranquility, however, apparently requires that government cast its gimlet eye into the bedrooms, even the wombs, of Colorado’s citizenry, ever alert for even the most venial transgressions of moral and theological edicts. Personal choice and private behavior seem to lie somewhere beyond the legal boundaries acknowledged by this freedom loving bunch.

For the remainder of this year, the gay partners committed to long term, loving relationships in Colorado will continue to rise each morning and report to their jobs and businesses, raise their children, attend homeowner’s meetings, pay their taxes and vote, all presumably to the considerable consternation of House Republicans. These legislators can bask over the summer in the smug satisfaction that they successfully protected the citizenry from the depredations of majority opinion. There is little reason to respect democratic or constitutional processes when they lead to legislation that offends the moral sensitivities of a bigoted minority. Perhaps it is because civil unions would create a contractual agreement between two consenting adults, establishing enforceable legal rights and authorities, which so frightens these Republicans. Enforcement of contracts has been their legislative specialty. No forgiveness of student loans or credit card debt, even when banks mail unsolicited cards to college students, during bankruptcy has been a mantra among Congressional Republicans.

A surprising, yet significant, public benefit that has emerged in those states that have already authorized civil unions has been the growing number of senior citizens who are taking advantage of this mechanism to legally recognize the reality of their living arrangements. This form of ‘marriage-lite’ does not jeopardize the pensions many seniors receive as a surviving spouse from a former marriage — benefits which can often be cancelled when the beneficiary remarries. Establishing a civil union allows these couples to room together in assisted living or nursing home facilities, and make medical decisions for one another. As Boomers enter their golden years, these circumstances will mushroom. And, late-in-life romances will no longer force a decision to ‘live in sin.’

But, for now, Colorado will have to wait for civil unions. Frank McNulty has poured gasoline over his caucus, and their failure to resist him has struck the match. The Republican majority in the House is nearly certain to be overturned this November. Independent voters in Colorado are more Libertarian than anything else, wary of both Republican moralizing and Democratic spenthriftery. With John Hickenlooper in the Governor’s chair, worries over runaway spending will take second place to a Republican majority bragging that it stands more than ready to squash the rights of a minority that a majority of voters know as their brothers, sisters, sons and daughters. If they forget, Tim Gill and the GLBT community will be quick to remind them. Death bed conversions on the part of Republican candidates, who opt to claim they will/would vote differently next time, will ring hollow.

The time for courage was in the past. The day of reckoning lies ahead.

Miller Hudson is a contributing columnist for The Colorado Statesman. He has a diverse background that includes two terms as a state representative from Denver, as well as head of an employees trade organization. He currently consults on policy issues in the state.