It was just Monday (February 23) that Colorado State Senator Scott Renfroe, on the Senate floor, quoted scripture that demands the death penalty for homosexuality, called homosexuality an abomination, and said it is equal to the sin of murder in God’s eyes.
Today (Wednesday, February 25), Colorado State Senator Dave Schultheis argued against a bill encouraging pregnant women to get tested for HIV on the grounds that the bill would “remove the consequences” of “sexual promiscuity.”
These two cases illustrate the fundamental problem with Colorado politics. The Republican Party is, to a large degree, the Party of God, complete with Bible readings on the Senate floor. Such Republicans declare homosexuality a sin, attempt to completely ban abortion, and generally try to promote their religious faith by force of law. The Democrats, on the other hand, want to expand political control of the economy. Because the Democrats are the less crazy of the two, they win by default. (Ayn Rand’s 1973 essay anticipates the state of modern Colorado politics.)
I am still waiting for the Colorado Republican Party to condemn Renfroe’s remarks. Now the party needs to condemn the remarks of Schultheis as well.
I have not been able to find a complete recording or transcript of Schultheis’s statements. The most complete remarks I’ve found come from the Rocky Mountain News.
During the Senate debate, Schultheis said, “This stems from sexual promiscuity for the most part and I just can’t go there. We do things continually to remove the consequences of poor behavior, unacceptable behavior, quite frankly. Sexual promiscuity we know causes a lot of problems in our state, one of which obviously is the contraction of HIV.”
Later, he told the Rocky:
What I’m hoping is that yes, that person may have AIDS, have it seriously as a baby and when they grow up, but the mother will begin to feel guilt as a result of that.
The family will see the negative consequences of that promiscuity and it may make a number of people over the coming years begin to realize that there are negative consequences and maybe they should adjust their behavior.
We can’t keep people from being raped. We can’t keep people from shooting each other. We can’t keep people from jumping off bridges. There are a lot of things we can’t do that have negative consequences in our society. People drink and drive and they crash and kill people. Poor behavior has its consequences.
HIV is spread by blood transmission, and sex is the primary means of that. Schultheis conflates “promiscuous sex” with sex at high risk of transmitting HIV, though of course most premarital sex is at low risk of HIV infection. Moreover, some monogamous women get HIV from their partners.
Schultheis is arguing that an HIV-infected baby constitutes punishment for women who get HIV through promiscuous sex. Schultheis does not wish to “remove the consequences” for such sex. The notion that any woman should be so punished is grotesque. But what about the infant? Isn’t the HIV-positive infant the one being punished the most?
David Harsanyi is on target in his critique of Schultheis:
The Republican Party, no matter how many fresh or smart ideas it may have, isn’t going to get anywhere in this state — or nationally — if it continues to spew the hateful gibberish we’ve heard from Scott Renfroe and Dave Schultheis the past couple of days. …
Are these [remarks of Schultheis] the words of a person who should be representing anyone?
The Republican Party has to get rid of these people, pronto. They aren’t conservatives; they’re nihilists. Can anyone imagine a Ronald Reagan or Barry Goldwater claiming that a child should live with AIDS to teach the mother a lesson? (If that is what Schultheis meant. And I still hold out a slim amount of hope that this was a matter of incoherence.)
If Schultheis apologizes for his remarks and explains that he really believes something else, we can follow up on Harsayni’s slim hopes. As of 11:38 p.m. on February 25, Schultheis has not issued a media release on the matter.
Schultheis: Bad for Liberty
Schultheis has a track record of assaulting our liberties. He has tried to restrict the right to get an abortion. He endorsed the 2008 measure that would have defined a fertilized egg as a person, laying the groundwork for banning abortion. He opposes embryonic stem-cell research.
Schultheis wants for forcibly prohibit employers from hiring workers by mutual consent, on protectionist grounds.
Schultheis is fiscally conservative, but often he is antagonistic toward free markets and individual rights.
Renfroe’s Sorry Appeal
Meanwhile, Renfroe said in defense of his comments: “Our First Amendment allows freedom of speech and I should be allowed to say what I want on any issue.” He sounds remarkably like Ward Churchill.
Renfroe’s invocation of the First Amendment is off point, because nobody is threatening his First Amendment rights. At issue is not what Renfroe has a right to say as a private citizen; everybody agrees he has every legal right to his bigotry. The point is that what he said is wrong, the fact that he said it as a state senator on the senate floor undermines the separation of church and state, and his critics also have a First Amendment right to condemn his statements and call for his resignation.
The Republican Party of Colorado is at a cross-roads. It can shake off the leash of the religious right, or it can remain the justly ridiculed minority party.