Week 2 – Arc of the moral universe

This last week we celebrated the shared birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and my Grandma Thelma (January 15, 1929). She still recalls the impact this man had on her life while living in the segregated south in the 1950s. Although they walked different paths in life, they both were firmly committed to build a better world through incredible acts of love. In the 84 years since their birth the world has changed dramatically due to the individual calls for justice that have culminated in a more perfect union. I am fortunate to be a beneficiary of their courage and I feel a deep responsibility to continue their work and legacy.

I have heard the phrase, “it’s like drinking from a fire hose” more times than I would care to recall in the last week but despite the cliché it accurately sums up the last few days of the legislative session! The sunshine may say different, but the days are long and the nights are short. With committee hearings, community events, town halls, impromptu meetings in marble staircases, and hundreds of pages of audit reports to review, I find myself busy nearly every waking moment. Despite the pace, exhaustion is the furthest thought from my mind. Instead, my brain is abuzz from the excitement of what we may accomplish this year in pursuit of justice.

Civil Unions

On Friday afternoon it was announced that the Senate Judiciary Committee will hear the Civil Unions bill (SB 13-011) on Wednesday, January 23 at 1:30pm in the Old Supreme Court Chambers (State Capitol, 2nd Floor). This bill will allow committed couples, including LGBT individuals, to receive critical legal protections that are not currently afforded under the law. Within minutes of announcing the committee hearing, my email account was inundated with messages regarding the bill. At the time of writing this message I had received 1,289 emails, with 1,211 messages in favor of Civil Unions and 78 opposed.

As you may know, my family and I have testified at every committee hearing in support of this bill since it was initially introduced. My partner and I, like so many families in our state, want to ensure that our kids are protected in the event of tragedy but we currently lack the basic protections that many other families enjoy. Unfortunately this year my family and I will be unable to testify on the bill as I will be preoccupied chairing the committee hearing! The Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator Lucia Guzman, is a co-prime sponsor on the bill and will be presenting it to our committee. This means that, as Vice-Chair of Senate Judiciary, I will be responsible for running this hearing. We have fought long and hard to move Colorado to a point where this legislation may become law, and I am honored to have a role in this journey.

Colorado ASSET

Last Tuesday, hundreds of students flooded the Capitol to advocate for the passage of the Colorado ASSET bill (SB 13-033), which will provide all Colorado high school graduates, to attend our universities and colleges at the in-state tuition rate. In Senate District 21 we have many youth who have grown up in our neighborhoods who aspire to be US citizens. We all understand that our immigration system is broken and that the federal government must take action to rebuild our immigration laws that respects our history as a nation of immigrants and a nation that honors hard work. However, Colorado kids are caught in the crossfire of a toxic and stagnant political debate in Congress regarding the broader issue of immigration. The state has the ability to act to ensure that all of our kids have a fair shot to succeed.

Over 10 years ago, I was one of three students to testify in favor of the bill when it was initially introduced. Growing up in southwestern Adams County, my friends and classmates were faced with the realities of an unfair system that penalized hard work and dedication. It seemed fundamentally unfair to me that the kids I knew since kindergarten, who are long-term Colorado residents and Americans-in-waiting, were denied an opportunity to receive a higher education because they didn’t have the right piece of paper. It was an inspiration to see how this movement has grown to include hundreds of students, teachers, parents, businesses and faith communities. Now is the time to pass the Colorado ASSET bill and it will face its first public hearing on Thursday, January 24, 2013 at 1:30pm in the Old Supreme Court Chambers (2nd Floor, State Capitol).

Please continue to engage with me throughout this session. We will have many more issues to consider and I welcome your thoughts, comments and feedback on how I should move forward. You’re also welcome to visit the Capitol (just email me and we’ll schedule a tour) or to connect with me at one of the community events listed below. I will leave with you one of my favorite quotes from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice” – Martin Luther King Jr.

Bending toward justice,

Jessie

 

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