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Going down with the ship

City Sage

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"Though the mills of God grind slowly, yet they grind exceeding small..."

So wrote Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in a 19th-century poem, freely translating an ancient Greek proverb. That's as good an explanation as any for our city's long, anguished relationship with gay Americans — or, for that matter, gays regardless of race, creed, color, age or place of national origin.

Two decades ago, Colorado voters narrowly passed Amendment 2, which forbade Colorado governments and courts from taking any legislative, judicial or executive action that recognized gays or lesbians as a "protected class." The amendment was conceived right here in Colorado Springs by a then-influential organization called Colorado for Family Values. Local residents Will Perkins and Kevin Tebedo headed the group and spearheaded signature-gathering for the initiative.

Three years later, the Supreme Court threw it out by a 6-3 margin. Justice Anthony Kennedy's majority opinion not only dismissed it as patently unconstitutional, but questioned the motives of its proponents.

"Its sheer breadth is so discontinuous with the reasons offered for it that the amendment seems inexplicable by anything but animus toward the class that it affects; it lacks a rational relationship to legitimate state interests," Kennedy wrote. "[Amendment 2] is at once too narrow and too broad. It identifies persons by a single trait and then denies them protection across the board. The resulting disqualification of a class of persons from the right to seek specific protection from the law is unprecedented in our jurisprudence."

In other words, all the blathering about the "radical homosexual agenda," and "special rights" was just thinly disguised prejudice.

Fast-forward 20 years, and here we are again. Following the refusal of Republican leaders to allow a bill permitting civil unions to reach the House floor, here's what House Majority Leader Amy Stephens, R-Monument, wrote in a Gazette op-ed piece: "As a wife, mother, citizen and legislator, I oppose this bill and any future attempt to undermine one-man, one-woman marriage in this state for several reasons ..."

Those reasons include "judicial chaos" and "the welfare of future generations, right of conscience and religious freedom in society." And, Stephens concluded, we know where this is all headed, don't we?

"Clearly," she wrote, "the political goal is same-sex marriage."

Well, Rep. Stephens, you're right. And if you and your fellow Republican elected officials would honestly examine the discredited and disgraceful views that you cling to, you'd support that very goal.

In January 1964, I impetuously married the most beautiful girl in Tahiti, an island justly renowned for the beauty of its inhabitants. We were just kids, 18 and 23. We were joined in marriage by the Mayor of Papeete, after which there was a fabulous party at the Hotel Tahiti. It was outrageously romantic — and illegal in many American states, where laws prohibited marriage between whites and members of races deemed inferior by racist lawmakers. Those laws were overturned a few years later when the Supreme Court, in Loving v. Virginia, unanimously overturned Virginia's statute.

The trial judge, sentencing Richard and Mildred Loving (the racially mixed couple who had violated the statute) to a year in prison, wrote:

"Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix."

Such sentiments now seem as vicious and absurd as Adolf Hitler's racial theories, as despicable as slavery itself.

Whatever Stephens and the House leadership claim, the truth is simple: They blocked the bill because conservative Republican activists viscerally despise gays. Support equality, and your career in elected office is over.

But you're on the wrong side of history. Equality is coming. You know it and I know it. Remember the prophetic words of Martin Luther King Jr.: "No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream."

Think about it: Is remaining in petty political office worth living a lie?

hazlehurst@csindy.com

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