I’ve spent a lot of time making fun of state legislators like Gerald Allen and Chris Buttars. Today I’m happy to say that I found one that deserves great praise. He is Wyoming State Rep. Dan Zwonitzer, a young Republican legislator who recently took a politically brave stand against a bill that would have prohibited that state from recognizing civil unions for gays performed in other states. He took to the floor there to deliver an inspiring speech defending the civil rights of gays and lesbians, the text of which I’ll paste below the fold. Thanks to Pam Spaulding for finding it.
Thank you Mr. Speaker and Members of the Committee.
I am not going to speak of specifics regarding this bill, but rather talk about history and philosophy in regards to this issue.
It is an exciting time to be in the legislature while this issue is being debated. I believe this is the Civil Rights struggle of my generation.
Being a student of history, as many of you are, and going back through history, most of history has been driven by the struggle of man against government to endow him with more rights, privileges and liberties to be bestowed upon him.
In all of my high school courses, we only made it through history to World War 2. It wasn’t until college that I really learned of the civil rights movement in the 60’s. My American History professor was black, and we spent a week discussing civil rights. I watched video after video where people stood on the sidelines and yelled and threw things at black students walking into schools, I’ve read editorials and reports by both sides of the issue, and I would think, how could society feel this way, only 40 years ago.
Under a democracy the civil rights struggle continues today, where we have one segment of our society trying to restrict rights and privelges from another segment of our society. My parents raised me to know that this is wrong.
It is wrong for one segment of society to restrict rights and freedoms from another segment of society. I believe many of you have had this conversation with your children.
And children have listened, my generation, the twenty-somethings, and those younger than I understand this message of tolerance. And in 20 years, when they take the reigns of this government and all governments, society will see this issue overturned, and people will wonder why it took so long.
My kids and grandkids will ask me, why did it take so long? And I can say, hey, I was there, I discussed these issues, and I stood up for basic rights for all people.
I echo Representative Childers concerns, that testifying against this bill may cost me my seat. I have two of my precinct committee persons behind me today who are in favor of this bill, as I stand here opposed, and I understand that I may very well lose my election. It cost 4 moderate Republican Senators in Kansas their election last year for standing up on this same issue. But I tell myself that there are some issues that are greater than me, and I believe this is one of them. And if standing up for equal rights costs me my seat so be it. I will let history be my judge, and I can go back to my constituents and say I stood up for basic rights. I will tell my children that when this debate went on, I stood up for basic rights for people.
I can debate the specifics of this bill back and forth as everyone in this room can, but I won’t because the overall theme is fairness, and you know it. I hope you will all let history be your judge with this vote. You all know in your hearts where this issue is going, that it will come to pass in the next 30 years. For that, I ask you to vote no today on the bill. Thank you.
He echoes a theme I’ve discussed many times here. I have no doubt that we will look back on this in 30 or 40 years the same way we look back on the civil rights struggles of 40 years ago now. Just as we look at footage of whites only lunch counters and drinking fountains now, with bewilderment that anyone in their right mind could possibly have thought such treatment was justified, we will look back at rallies and speeches against gay marriage within a generation or two and be shocked. Just as the equality of blacks and whites is taken as a self-evident truth today, so will the equality of gays and straights and it will happen within most of our lifetimes.
To those who oppose equal rights for gays, I say jump on the train. It’s going to its destination no matter how much you yell and scream. And it won’t be long before we’re all going to look back at your objections and it’s going to look just like those interviews with high school kids in Alabama we see on old newsreels, the ones where they’re just casually telling a reporter that they don’t want no niggers there.