UPDATE: In the interest of full disclosure, we do think it’s important to note that Sen. Don Coram was the Senate sponsor of the bill in question to reduce youth suicides, House Bill 18-1177. Coram’s statement was apparently meant as a sarcastic response to Sen. Vicki Marble after Marble explained why she would be voting against the bill.
Like we said below, we never thought that Coram actually believed this. It’s just horrible, horrible timing for gallows humor–even if you could argue that Sen. Marble had it coming. We should all be able to agree that youth suicide is not a subject for which jokes are ever appropriate.
We’re trying to get our heads around a positively shocking clip of audio we were forwarded from Tuesday’s hearing of the Colorado Senate State, Veterans, and Military Affairs Committee. At the end of debate on House Bill 18-1177, “Concerning multiple approaches to help prevent youth suicide,” GOP Sen. Don Coram of Montrose made a…we’re not sure what you call this. A quip? A wisecrack?
Whatever you want to call it, on its face it’s one of the most horrible things we’ve ever heard uttered by a sitting Colorado lawmaker, and that says quite a lot. Obligatory trigger warning:
MARBLE: Senator Coram?
CORAM: I was just going to say I guess the positive side is, is uh, if we have enough suicides we can save [on the] cost of education. [Pols emphasis]
MARBLE: That was a pretty low blow. Ms. Shipley would you please take the roll…
And that’s it. A roll call vote of the committee was then taken, and the Republican majority on the Senate State Affairs Committee voted to kill the bill. Chair Vicki Marble then adjourned the committee while those in the committee reportedly sat silently with their jaws open.
Folks, what the hell are we supposed to make of this? We understand, based on some kind of basic level of human decency that we have to believe we all share, that Sen. Coram was not seriously suggesting that youth suicides are a good thing because the state could “save [on the] cost of education.”
Except that is exactly what he said.
At the end of the day, you can’t excuse this as a joke falling flat. Teenage suicide is an incredibly difficult subject to reckon with under the very best of circumstances, and for families who have been affected these words are utterly poisonous whether intended in jest or not. To call this an irresponsible statement from a sitting lawmaker, especially right before his fellow Republicans voted to kill legislation to prevent youth suicide, is an understatement in the extreme.
In a legislative session maybe unprecedented for its many outrages, here is one that truly stands out.