Monday, February 21, 2011

Looking ahead on equality

Take action – Urge legislators to vote NO on concurrence on HB 74

With House Bill 74 – Validity of marriage through the Senate by the slimmest of third-reading margins, advocates of equality now must turn their attention to concurrence with the House – and there is hope that changes to this legislation mean no one is happy with it and it can be defeated.

The ESPC and its allies in the GLBT and legal communities urge everyone to send an email to the legislator who represents them and others they know or have a relationship with. Urge them to vote No on concurrence.

If the House refuses to concur with the Senate changes to the bill, then a conference committee will be appointed to attempt to work out differences between the Senate and the House. Urge your legislators to vote No on any compromise produced in conference committee, too.

The dispute centers around amendments made to the original bill. The House adopted an amendment that sponsor Sen. Curt Meier (R-SD3, LaGrange) declared was “circular in nature” and would have unintended effects on other legal arrangements that GLBT couples make to protect their personal and property interests. (That is Sen. Meier at right in the photograph above. He is conferring over the engrossed copy of HB 74 with Sen. Phil Nicholas of Laramie.)

At Meier’s urging, the Senate removed the amendment. The senators ultimately attached a new amendment aimed at recognizing civil unions made in other states.

That amendment, proposed by Sen. Ogden Driskill (R-SD1, Devils Tower), is being attacked by anti-GLBT forces. They have launched a weekend email messaging campaign urging members of the House to resist concurrence in order to avoid, as they clearly state in their message, “… succumbing to the Homosexual Agenda.”

“We are asking/pleading with you that you DO NOT concur with the Senate version of HB0074. If the Senate version is allowed, you are allowing Wyoming to start down the ugly and eroding path that Civil Unions will have (and has [sic] had on other states that have allowed this) on not only our generation, but our children and grandchildren,” the advocates of discriminating against GLBT people assert. (Boldface type in original.)

They go on to attack the morality of the many friends and neighbors we have who happen to be homosexuals:

“We ask that you stick to your guns, and continue to uphold Wyoming in the moral fabric that founded this country and state,” the email says. (Boldface type in original.)

This session has resounded with people claiming certain religious views for the “founders” that enables them to provide a narrow idea of the American “moral fabric.”

Do they refer to the founding “moral fabric” that safely stitched slavery into the Constitution and prohibited anyone without property from voting? Do they mean the moral fabric that forbade interracial marriage? What about founder Thomas Jefferson’s sexual relationship with his enslaved housekeeper Sally Hemmings?

These advocates of discrimination against GLBT folk insist on a moral fabric in which they choose the pattern and color that the rest of us must live with or face penalty of law.

At best, they are denying the understanding that scientific observation produced in the 20th century that human sexuality is complex with many variations, not simply a dichotomy separating men from women. The world might be an easier place to navigate if Nature was so definitive. It is not.

Again, the ESPC asks everyone to email legislators and urge them to oppose concurrence in the House – obviously, for difference reasons than the anti-GLBT crowd – and then to oppose any compromises produced in subsequent conference committees in order to kill the bill.

Still looking waaay back: Nullification

The Senate Labor, Health and Social Services Committee provided an opportunity to reach back to the speech that Mississippi’s Jefferson Davis gave when he resigned from the U.S. Senate.

House Bill 35 – Health Care Choice and Protection Act declares that the new federal health care reform law known as the Affordable Care Act is “not authorized by the constitution of the United States and violate its meaning, intent and principles as given by the ratifiers [there are those founders again] … “ and “shall be considered null and void and of no effect in this state; …”

The theory of nullification and interposition, first used by the Jeffersonian Republican party to oppose the Alien and Sedition Acts in 1798, was fully developed by Sen. John C. Calhoun of South Carolina in the 1820s in opposition to high import duties imposed by the federal government.

The South Carolinians also feared that the greater federal authority asserted to impose the high tariff ultimately could be turned against the institution of slavery.1

When Davis resigned from the U.S. Senate in 1861, he made clear that when nullification fails, secession is the next step. (Editor's note: When Davis mentions "the agent," he means the federal government.)

“Nullification is a remedy which it is sought to apply with the Union, against the agent of the States. It is only to be justified when the agent has violated his constitutional obligations, and a State, assuming to judge for itself, denies the right of the agent thus to act, and appeals to the other states of the Union for a decision; but when the States themselves and when the people of the States have so acted as to convince us that they will not regard our constitutional rights, then, and then for the first time, arises the doctrine of secession in its practical application.”2

Taylor Haynes, a write-in candidate for governor in 2010, supported HB 35 and told the committee the Wyoming legislature has the authority “to protect us” from the federal government. “They run over us,” Haynes said. “They steal from us.”

Tim Summers, lobbyist for AARP, told the committee that some difficult questions would need to be answered if the bill passes. He noted that the ACA provides funding for a state program to inform seniors of their options regarding health insurance. Summers asked if passage of House Bill 35 would mean a state employee would violate the law if he or she gave out such information.

Time ran out on the committee hearing Friday. Chairman Charles Scott (R-SD30, Casper) laid the bill back and said he would discuss with committee members what they want to do next with the bill.

1 Paul S. Boyer, editor in chief, “The Oxford Companion to United States History” 2001.
2 Jefferson Davis’s Farewell to the U.S. Senate, Jan. 21, 1861;