Morgan Carroll

Civil Unions Floor Speech - March 24, 2011

Morgan Carroll
March 24, 2011— Denver, Colorado
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I just wanted to add a couple things and thanks- thank folks for again continued day of civil debate and civil dialogue over the issue of civil unions. I have to say, yesterday was probably one of the proudest days not only of my time in the state legislature, but maybe even in my life. We only have so many opportunities out of the volumes of bills that we do to do things that actually advance our causes closer and further as our preamble says towards- the towards ever forming a more perfect union. It is about civil rights and civil laws. Our Constitution itself, of course, enshrines the notion of equal protection and as we heard so eloquently yesterday, that has not been an instant path to get all of our citizens in the United States of America equal protection under the laws. I am so proud that we are doing this on our time here and that we have the opportunity to be sharing in this moment in history.

As a more technical matter for you and for anyone listening just to be clear, the bill itself on, page 18, very clearly says that, “the provisions of this article shall not be construed to create a marriage between the parties to a civil union or alter the public policy of the state which recognizes only the union of a man and a woman as a marriage.” That is in the plain language of the law, so clearly it does not- it isn't a marriage, it is not recognized and from a legal point of view, it falls short of giving even full equal protection and in that extent to what's there but even though our Constitution contemplates equal protection under the laws.

When we historically were looking at extending equal protection to other classes of folks before again whether women or other minorities or as was mentioned yesterday non land owning folks, a lot of the historical opposition to extending a truer sense of equal protection was always a perception of a zero-sum game if we give someone else rights that someone stands to lose. When this country was going through its debate about desegregation, there were a lot of predictions of harm on how other people who currently had those rights would somehow lose, that the current status that people had whatever they enjoyed about the American quality of life, some of those folks actually fear that they would lose that if we simply extend the very same rights to other people.

Giving equal rights is not a zero-sum game. No one loses. Your marriage is your marriage. Your marriage will not be, and no one's marriage, will be any weaker the day after this bill passes. Who you love will not be any different. Who you worship, how you think about life, the rights you enjoy. By adding equality to all of our residents, no one loses, and it's been unfortunate that at times when we look at how we progress forward there's a concern that if we add rights to someone else the same rights we enjoy that other folks lose.

So while obviously the heart of the bill is really a personal question, the legal side of this of what we're asking is do we or don't we believe that loving long-term committed couples who are willing to take on as nearly equal rights and responsibilities as this would allow and grant it imperfect should they for example have access to victims compensation laws in Colorado as a victim of a crime? And if not, why not? Why not? Why should a victim and- and I just can't understand actually why that would be different. The right to claim a homestead exemption. I mean, if they shouldn't be equal, can someone tell me why not?

As far as what was mentioned on protections and responsibilities relating to emergency or non-emergency medical care, some sophisticated people can do a workaround, but what we heard yesterday is that most people can take for granted that their relationship will be recognized without any additional paperwork and without any additional hurdles. Yet here, do we or don't we believe that all people should have equal protection to go visit their loved ones and if not, why not? The bill says it is not marriage, so now we are squarely in the area of rights. In fact, the bill goes through on a list of what many would consider prosaic, but critical rights that the rest of us take for granted. We're talking about the ability to inherit real property under the probate code. Do we or don't we believe that folks who are consenting adults who are in a committed relationship be able to access that? Should they have equal protection of that law, and if not, why not?

If someone else can inherit property, does that hurt your marriage? I don't think so. I think our marriages are stronger than that. I think letting other adults who are committed, who love each other share in the same rights threatens no one. And today I want to thank you for continuing a civil dialogue on this. I am so proud to be here hearing this bill. I will so proudly be casting my yes vote, and as we look at the long arc of history, as we do strive to create a more perfect union, as we do strive to achieve the American vision of equal protection of the laws for all, I am honored to be here today and have the privilege to be able to cast my yes vote in support of this bill.