Democracy works pretty well in small communities. City Council in Lewes is a bit like Town Meetings in New England. People come and speak their mind and are listened to by neighbors, some of whom serve on council. The towns is small, three thousand or so, and the larger community (in the winter) about 5 or 6 thousand.
The same is true on a state level: The legislature in Dover is bicameral, the House has 41 members, the Senate 21 members (this for a state population of less than a million people. Often when there is a bill of some importance the hearings of committees are held in the House or Senate chamber, and sometimes when the full house or senate is considering legislation people from "the street" can sign up or be called upon to speak to an issue. The distance between legislation making and the people of the land is not all that great.
I've given testimony on several occasions over the years. Three times in the long struggle to get a bill passed that offered equal employment and housing rights to LGBT citizens. I spoke once to a House committee, once to the full House, and once to a Senate committee, and yesterday again to a Senate committee on Civil unions.
Sometimes these occasions was followed by the bill never getting out of committee, or getting voted down by one or the other house. Sometimes the efforts pushed matters on to a positive vote.
The thing is, we all understood that speaking our mind and listening to one another and dealing with the results was all part of the agreement - we would testify for what we wanted to see happen, give our best argument, and live with the results. There would be a next time, for the process always has a next time.
|Delaware Senate Chamber|
So yesterday we came into the Senate chamber and heard each other out. Some forty people testified, twenty for and twenty against the bill for civil unions. The "pro" statements were mostly about civil rights and civil matters, the "anti" statements were mostly about the bill either being a cover for the next round - same sex marriage - or simply wrong in biblical terms. Much of the talk on each side simply missed the other entirely.
I was frankly ashamed of the statements and behavior of some of those who spoke against the bill. I was ashamed because, as a convinced and convicted Christian I found their statements wildly condemning, biblically illiterate, and lacking in any pentecostal vision. The spirit present in their remarks was the sad spirit of a God who condemns. Sad to say too, their remarks were mostly outside the competency of a civil legislature. Here was an opportunity to address inequities in the law and practice of community life in Delaware and the opposition could only offer the bread of conspiracy and the dry loaf of condemnation. Not much to feed on.
The hearings closed without a vote, but the committee later voted to send the legislation on to the full Senate for consideration. So we have moved forward. It's not over yet, but it's moving on. So hopefully Equality Delaware will invite friends to come again and speak to the full Senate.