Colorado civil unions bill SB 172 may have passed out of the state Senate Thursday but the video shadow of the debate over the bill is growing on the internet. Berthoud Republican Senator Kevin Lundberg is drawing fact-checking and mockery for the discredited and reaching arguments he made against the bill on the floor of the Senate before his colleagues and the cameras of the Colorado Channel.
From the time the bill was reviewed in the Judiciary Committee, Lundberg has led opposition, largely presenting a faith-based argument that civil unions are marriage by another name and that granting gay couples the legal rights and responsibilities enjoyed by straight couples would diminish or “misdirect” marriage. “Marriage is not an institution that anyone of us in this room has established,” he said. “Indeed, it is the Supreme Ruler of the Universe who established it.”
He then presented evidence in support of his view that civil unions diminish marriage and the family and therefore negatively affect society.
We can look to the nation of France, which instituted civil unions in the 1990s. We can look at some of these Scandinavian countries that have gone down this same road and what we see is not a reinforcement of marriage and the family unit. But what we see are cultures that have abandoned the family unit as a foundation of human society…This would change the very concept of what marriage is.
Igor Volsky at Wonkroom and Daniel Gonzales at Box Turtle Bulletin have provided short, sharp roundups of statistics that refute the “diminishment of the family in Europe” argument, which has been argued by social conservatives over the last decade. In fact, since civil unions were introduced in the Old World, straight and gay couples have turned to them in great numbers and the effect has been that marriage rates climbed and the rates of divorce and births outside of marriage declined. M.V. Lee Badgett wrote a seminal deconstruction of the social conservative position at Slate in 2004. That piece remains persuasive.
In committee last month, Lundberg argued what many conservatives might call the “nanny state” line more directly, arguing that because civil unions had become so popular with straight couples in Europe, he felt it was incumbent on lawmakers to keep that option off the table for Coloradans for their own good.
“This would be a new road we’re going down,” he said. “Marriage itself becomes less of a priority…. We can misdirect the institution of marriage.”
On Wednesday, Lundberg also argued that SB 172 attempted to solve a problem that didn’t exist. He downplayed the discriminatory effect produced by state laws that grant straight couples rights denied to gay couples. He said that gay couples testifying to being shut out of medical decision-making or hospital visits when their partners were undergoing treatment, for example, were either exaggerating or fabricating such stories. As evidence, he offered his own recent experience visiting his wife in hospital, where no questions were asked about his right to be there at her side.
Such discrimination or hardships are “beyond my experience,” Lundberg said. “They don’t occur by my observation, anyway.”
In posting the above video at YouTube, Gonzales underlined the absurdity in Lundberg offering his experience as a straight man who has never suffered anti-gay discrimination as evidence that such discrimination doesn’t exist– Lundberg’s toss-off qualifier “by my observation, anyway” ratcheting up the black humor of the line of reasoning. Lundberg may have added that he’s never been discriminated against as a partner in an inter-racial relationship either nor as a recent transgender Somali immigrant to Greeley, for example, so any testimony the Senate might hear on those matters might also be discounted.
“One of the main ideas of heterosexual privilege is never having your family questioned,” wrote Gonzales. “Sen Kevin Lundberg clearly has no idea what it’s like to be gay.”
Denver Senator Pat Steadman’s civil unions bill passed in the Democrat-controlled Senate on a bipartisan 23-12 vote. It now heads to the Republican-controlled House.