Democrats were outraged Wednesday morning when Republican state Sen. Dave Schultheis said he planned to vote against a bill to require HIV tests for pregnant women because the disease “stems from sexual promiscuity” and he didn’t think the Legislature should “remove the negative consequences that take place from poor behavior and unacceptable behavior.” The Colorado Springs lawmaker then proceeded to cast the lone vote against SB 179, which passed 32-1 and moves on to the House.
“HIV does not just come from sexual promiscuity, it comes from many other things — contaminated blood, for one,” fired back one of the bill’s sponsors, Sen. Lois Tochtrop, after Schultheis spoke on the Senate floor.
“What this bill will do and why it’s so important to test the woman when she is pregnant — if she is HIV-positive, treatment is started immediately to protect the baby, the unborn baby,” the Thornton Democrat, who is also a nurse, said.
Listen to Schultheis and Tochtrop here.
Reaction to Schultheis’ remarks rippled through the Capitol.
“Sen. Schultheis drew the conclusion that anyone who may have HIV is sexually promiscuous,” said Sen. Jennifer Veiga, a Denver Democrat and the Legislature’s only openly lesbian member. “I find that offensive in the context of this bill and I find it offensive in the context of the gay community.”
“I think [Schultheis] owes the [Legislature] and the public at large an apology,” Veiga said.
She castigated the GOP for staying silent when its legislators make outrageous statements during debates on bills. “Republicans continue to allow comments like this to go unchecked,” she said, referencing statements made Monday when Republican Sen. Scott Renfroe compared homosexuality to murder in a debate over a bill sponsored by Veiga to expand health benefits to same-sex partners of state employees. “They quietly sit by and acquiesce.”
The Colorado Republican Party didn’t return a call seeking comment on Renfroe’s and Schultheis’ remarks.
“They absolutely should call Sen. Schultheis on his comments and the inappropriateness of his comments, as they should have done with Sen. Renfroe two days ago,” Veiga said. “Even Gov. Owens distanced himself and called to task members of his own party” when they go over the line, Veiga said.
Here’s a transcript, prepared by The Colorado Independent, of what Schultheis said:
Thank you, Madam President. You know, this was a difficult bill for me. I voted yes in committee on it because of discussions surrounding the fact that — well, let me just basically say this, it basically modifies the communicable disease laws and it requires the health care providers to test pregnant women for HIV unless they opt out. And that’s basically, that’s the main part of this bill. I voted yes on it. I was a little bit troubled with my vote and was just wondering what was bothering me. I woke up the next morning — Thursday morning — at 5 a.m. and I wrestled with this bill for another hour from 5 to 6 and finally came to the conclusion I’m going to be a no vote on this. I’m trying to think through what the role of government is here. And I am not convinced that part of the role of government should be to protect individuals from the negative consequences of their actions.
Sexual promiscuity, we know, causes a lot of problems in our state, one of which, obviously, is the contraction of HIV. And we have other programs that deal with the negative consequences — we put up part of our high schools where we allow students maybe 13 years old who put their child in a small daycare center there.
We do things continually to remove the negative consequences that take place from poor behavior and unacceptable behavior, quite frankly, and I don’t think that’s the role of this body.
As a result of that I finally came to the conclusion I would have to be a no vote on this because this stems from sexual promiscuity for the most part, and I just can’t vote on this bill and I wanted to explain to this body why I was going to be a no vote on this.
UPDATE: Schultheis restates his opposition to the bill by claiming HIV babies are punishment for promiscuous moms.