Monday, February 26, 2007

On taking the unpopular stance

Okay, so I'm a passionate progressive liberal, proud to be one, and supportive of others like me. But never let it be said that I can't appreciate a Republican when he stands up on his hind legs and does the right thing. I'd like to both tip my hat and raise a glass of nonalcoholic sparkling cider to Wyoming state representative Dan Zwonitzer, who argued passionately against a bill that would ban recognition of legal same-sex unions in Wyoming:
Thank you Mr. Speaker and Members of the Committee.

I am not going to speak of specifics regarding this bill, but rather talk about history and philosophy in regards to this issue.

It is an exciting time to be in the legislature while this issue is being debated. I believe this is the Civil Rights struggle of my generation.

Being a student of history, as many of you are, and going back through history, most of history has been driven by the struggle of man against government to endow him with more rights, privileges and liberties to be bestowed upon him.

In all of my high school courses, we only made it through history to World War 2. It wasn’t until college that I really learned of the civil rights movement in the 60’s. My American History professor was black, and we spent a week discussing civil rights. I watched video after video where people stood on the sidelines and yelled and threw things at black students walking into schools, I’ve read editorials and reports by both sides of the issue, and I would think, how could society feel this way, only 40 years ago.

Under a democracy the civil rights struggle continues today, where we have one segment of our society trying to restrict rights and privelges from another segment of our society. My parents raised me to know that this is wrong.

It is wrong for one segment of society to restrict rights and freedoms from another segment of society. I believe many of you have had this conversation with your children.

And children have listened, my generation, the twenty-somethings, and those younger than I understand this message of tolerance. And in 20 years, when they take the reigns of this government and all governments, society will see this issue overturned, and people will wonder why it took so long.

My kids and grandkids will ask me, why did it take so long? And I can say, hey, I was there, I discussed these issues, and I stood up for basic rights for all people.

I echo Representative Childers concerns, that testifying against this bill may cost me my seat. I have two of my precinct committee persons behind me today who are in favor of this bill, as I stand here opposed, and I understand that I may very well lose my election. It cost 4 moderate Republican Senators in Kansas their election last year for standing up on this same issue. But I tell myself that there are some issues that are greater than me, and I believe this is one of them. And if standing up for equal rights costs me my seat so be it. I will let history be my judge, and I can go back to my constituents and say I stood up for basic rights. I will tell my children that when this debate went on, I stood up for basic rights for people.

I can debate the specifics of this bill back and forth as everyone in this room can, but I won’t because the overall theme is fairness, and you know it. I hope you will all let history be your judge with this vote. You all know in your hearts where this issue is going, that it will come to pass in the next 30 years. For that, I ask you to vote no today on the bill. Thank you.

The bill never made it out of committee.

Rep. Zwonitzer reports that he has gotten some negative feedback, but that almost all of it has come from the "deep red" portions of Wyoming outside of his district. I hope that his fears of losing the next election will prove unfounded; not only do we need more people - conservative, liberal, whoever - like him in our legislatures, I hate to think of anyone being punished for doing what even many Democratic legislators are failing to do of late: standing up and defending the rights of a persecuted group when it's a particularly unpopular tack.

Feel free to shoot the man an e-mail and let him know what an incredible and (sadly) unusual thing he's done. As soon as I know how to contribute to his re-election campaign, that's where I'm sending my pennies.

No comments: