Family Versus Constituents

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A crowd at the Capitol in May 2012 while the civil union bill was still under consideration. (credit: CBS)

A crowd at the Capitol in May 2012 while the civil union bill was still under consideration. (credit: CBS)

Written by Dominic Dezzutti

While the death of the civil unions bill in the Special Legislative Session was widely predicted, exactly how the death blow would be dealt was still in question.

On Monday, we learned that the bill would go to the one committee Speaker Frank McNulty could count on killing it, the State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee.

However, even though the fix was in, there was one remaining bit of drama left for the Civil Unions debate. Rep. Don Coram of Montrose was one of the Republicans who voted against the bill, but before he cast his vote, he told everyone in attendance how proud he was of his gay son.

Then he promptly voted to kill a bill that would have given his son similar rights that his mother and father enjoy.

Rep. Coram’s personal conundrum was short lived, but highlighted a wonderful example of why some people despise politics.

Usually, family ranks above all in life. People work hard in order to feed and care for their kids. When holidays come around, family members are the people you want to spend time with most. In fact, the Republican Party itself values family so much that they were for a long time, the party of family values.

Apparently, something outranks family for Rep. Coram.

Coram explained his “no” vote by saying that he represents a district that does not agree with the Civil Unions bill and that he found the bill would be too much of a contrast with the existing Colorado Constitutional amendment that defines marriage as between a man and a woman.

In general, those are fine reasons to vote the way he did.

However, in this case, those reasons tend to become fairly awkward when we’re talking about those reasons outweighing the rights of his son.

While I am sure Rep. Coram’s constituents, at least the social conservative ones, appreciate his “no” vote, I have to imagine a very awkward campaign stump speech describing his loyalty later this fall.

Does he actually tell his constituents that he literally chose what he thought they believed in over the rights of his own son? And if he does, do they actually respect him for that? Could they really blame him if he looked into his heart and voted for his son’s rights over the perceived beliefs of his constituents?

Or maybe this wasn’t about constituents at all. Politics can indeed be a game of smoke and mirrors. Maybe Coram’s constituents’ beliefs were the public story and the real story was that this was simply a decision made for the party, and not for anyone else.

While that may indeed be the real story, I certainly hope it isn’t. Because I’d like to hope that, while it has happened elsewhere, in Colorado, an elected representative wouldn’t pick the politics of his party over his own son. That’s simply too sad to consider.

What I prefer to ask myself is what I would think if I were one of Rep. Coram’s constituents and agreed with him on his stance on Civil Unions. Would I appreciate Coram’s vote, or would I be appalled that my elected representative possibly permanently wounded his relationship with his only child in order to stay consistent with my proposed beliefs?

If this one vote irreparably harms the relationship between Coram and his son, is that blood on the hands of his constituents? And if so, do they deserve that blame?

Rep. Coram and his “no” vote have given all of us an excellent opportunity to take a look at what we want really want out of our own elected leaders. Should they follow their hearts or the proposed beliefs of their constituents? If the two are at odds, who should hold the trump card?

And most importantly, what would we do in their shoes?

I know what I would do, and that’s why I will not run for office. Because if constituents are only going to vote for me if I vote against my son, they can go ahead and keep their vote.

About The Blogger

- Dominic Dezzutti, producer of the Colorado Decides debate series, a co-production of CBS4 and Colorado Public Television, looks at the local and national political scene in his CBSDenver.com blog. Read new entries here every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Dezzutti writes about federal, state and local matters and how our elected leaders are handling the issues important to Colorado. Dezzutti also produces the Emmy winning Colorado Inside Out, hosted by Raj Chohan, on Colorado Public Television.

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