Losing propositions

Feb 12, 2014 By Steven R. Peck

Legal pot failed, and gay marriage likely will, but it's better to confront these issue than ignore them

The Wyoming Legislature is at the point of its biennial budget session when many non-budget bills are being proposed for introduction, which also is the point at which many of them are being disposed of almost as quickly as they come up.

There was some predictable alarm about proposed bills legalizing same-sex marriage and marijuana in the state. One of them already has been rejected for introduction this year (marijuana), and the same fate probably awaits the gay marriage bill.

The budget session is supposed to be about the two-year state budget, so bills on other subjects are required to pass a harder test for introduction than they would in the longer general sessions held in odd-numbered years.

So there wasn't really much reason to worry about either the marriage or the marijuana bills, but our state's residents shouldn't ignore these issues, either.

It is good for Wyoming to have these discussions, and maybe the short budget session is the perfect place to do it. Even when a bill stands little chance of being introduced to the full House or Senate, the bit of discussion that it gets might well do us some good later.

Wyoming is part of the United States of America, and these issues are becoming more prominent in our nation. It was inevitable that they would reach our state, and Wyoming needs to have a reasoned response to them, regardless of what we decide.

We are a small state in terms of population -- the smallest, in fact -- but even so there are hundreds of thousands of people here. And in a group that large, there is every kind of person. We are best known for our rock-ribbed conservatives, and we enjoy presenting a blue-collar or lonesome cowboy image to the rest of the country. There definitely are lots of those general types of people in our state.

But there also are human beings of every other conceivable stripe --some of whom would be glad if Wyoming permitted marijuana to be smoked legally, some of whom would celebrate the legalization of same-sex marriage.

No state is an island, and Wyoming will not be able to dodge a confrontation with controversial social issues by pretending otherwise. In the case of the marijuana bill, it got talked over for a while Tuesday at the Capitol. Those who were for it stated some reasons. Those who were against did the same. The decision not to introduce the bill reflected two things -- the difficulty of getting a two-thirds majority vote to bring a non-budget bill to life during a budget session, and a majority disapproval of legal marijuana in Wyoming.

But the issue got a fair hearing, as well as a vote. That process required us all to pay attention for a bit. The same will be required of us and our elected representatives when the same-sex marriage bill is dealt with in a day or two.

Paying attention, talking things over, and subjecting ideas to a public vote is a great way to do business. It ought to be encouraged on every issue, including those that we know will fail. If the table ever turns, we'll be better prepared to handle it.

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