An exchange in the Colorado Senate last Friday evening is provoking much controversy today–during debate over House Bill 16-1426, which would make it a petty offensive to falsely claim a pet as a trained “service animal” so as to obtain accommodations provided by law for such animals.
During debate over the bill Friday, GOP Sen. Tim Neville had a moment of oh-so cleverness:
HOLBERT: Any further discussion on House Bill 1426? Sen. Neville.
NEVILLE: (Chuckles) Thank you Mister Chair. You know, we, we-we’re entering strange times. I mean we have a big challenge, that uh, we hear with, uh, the transgender folks. You know they decide, you know basically what they are. [Pols emphasis] I mean, I guess these service dogs, you know, people are deciding ‘is this a service dog,’ is this uh, a dog?
Hard to miss Neville’s implication here–since transgender citizens “decide what they are,” why should we be able to do the same thing with service animals?
Now, anyone with the smallest shred of tolerance or even decency in a public debate should know that claiming a transgender person has “chosen” their gender identity, as opposed to that being how they were born, is considered deeply offensive. And that’s before you compare transgender people to, you know, a fucking dog.
Sen. Pat Steadman had better composure to respond to this over-the-top insult than we would have.
STEADMAN: One of the important things about this bill to understand, colleague, is that no puppy is born to be a service dog.
STEADMAN: Only those dogs that are trained to be service dogs, highly trained, can wear the, the identification that says ‘don’t pet me I’m working.’ That’s what this bill’s about.
The point of the bill, of course, was to protect a bonafide class of true service animals who qualify for disability accommodations above the level of a mere pet. This distinction is important to ensure access to housing and other protected needs of disabled people that could potentially be encumbered by having a service dog.
As for Sen. Neville? It was just another chance to trot out his inner douchebag.