Following a large rally yesterday at the Colorado State Capitol in defense of the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, whose funding reauthorization was stalled by a deadlocked party-line vote of the legislature’s powerful Joint Budget Committee, Republicans found themselves once again on the defensive–and they complained bitterly about the overwhelmingly negative attention the vote has caused for the Senate GOP majority in particular. As the Denver Post’s John Frank reports:
Republicans say that their intention was never to defund the commission indefinitely or even put its existence into question, and that they just wanted to have a part in the process and to voice their concerns about the panel.
“It seemed very well orchestrated that they were able to come out and scream about the defunding of the department when that in fact is wholly untrue,” said Senate President Kevin Grantham, a Cañon City Republican. “This happens all the time across the street (from the Capitol where the JBC meets) where more questions want to be asked about a particular department before the funding is passed.”
“The end result was never in doubt,” Grantham added, saying what Democrats on the JBC did amounts to a breach of protocol. “… We will have a civil rights commission and we will also have a say in what it looks like.” [Pols emphasis]
FOX 31’s Joe St. George:
“We are committed to the reauthorization of the Civil Rights Commission,” Republican State Sen. Bob Gardner said.
“I believe the make up of the commission is not balanced right now.”
9NEWS’ Anna Staver:
“It wasn’t a no,” [Sen. Kevin] Lundberg said. “It was a no, not now.”
He asked to postpone the vote until after the review process finished, but Democrats on the committee called for a vote.
“I am not prepared to vote for funding until I understand what this commission will actually be all about in the coming years,” Lundberg said during the budget meeting. [Pols emphasis]
One of the most inviolate customs observed between lawmakers in the Colorado General Assembly–as we expect it is elsewhere–is a tradition that legislative colleagues do not “impugn the motives” of fellow lawmakers in the course of debate. The goal is to suppress acrimony over hot-button issues by creating a degree of separation between the subject being argued and the people doing the arguing. Of course sometimes the motive is plainly obvious, and that can lead to a stilted debate in which one side is basically hiding behind courtesy to dodge criticism for a distasteful underlying reality that everybody knows.
In the case of the Colorado Civil Rights Commission and the vote by JBC Republicans to block its funding, the motive everyone is too polite to acknowledge is this: two of the most homophobic senators in the Republican-controlled Colorado Senate serve on the JBC. Sen. Kevin Lundberg praised Kentucky Clerk Kim Davis for “abiding by the laws of God” when she went to jail rather than issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Sen. Kent Lambert said that Colorado’s civil unions law is a “mind-control experiment” intended to force Coloradans “to believe in homosexual marriage.”
How is it that this standoff has been developing for almost a week and not one single mainstream news story has pointed this out? We understand that turnover at local media outlets is quite high and some of these events occurred literally before yesterday, but at some level that’s just no excuse. In our view, you can’t tell the story of three Republicans blocking funding for the Civil Rights Commission without explaining the openly homophobic views of two out of three of them.
The public needs the unsanitized truth about what the Republicans who did this actually believe. There’s no guesswork about what they believe. It’s all on the record. Voters can Google it. And above all, reporters are not bound by the niceties of legislative decorum.
So please. Tell the whole story.