Bennet Also Called for Swift Passage of the Respect for Marriage Act to Take a Step Toward Equality for LGBTQ Americans
Washington, D.C. — Today, Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet spoke on the Senate floor to honor the victims and survivors of the Club Q shooting in Colorado Springs and call for swift passage of the Respect for Marriage Act, a bipartisan compromise to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act, recognize same-sex marriage federally, and take a step toward equality for LGBTQ people in Colorado and across the country.
“Colorado is hurting. We are tired of this… for more than two decades, we have had to grieve over one incident after another,” said Bennet in his speech. “So while we stand here on the verge of taking a historic step toward equality, a vitally important step toward equality, we are reminded once again of just how much work is left to do to give our children the safe and accepting future that they deserve, that they want to have, that we are obligated to give them.”
Bennet’s full speech is available HERE. Below are remarks as delivered:
Thank you Madam President and thank you for recognizing me.
Before the Thanksgiving break, I had planned to use my time today to talk about the Respect For Marriage Act, which the presiding officer has had such an important role playing in and I want to congratulate her on the incredible work that she’s done to get this over the finish line. Because we are on the verge of passing the Respect for Marriage Act in the United States Senate.
And it’s a historic piece of legislation to ensure that if a same-sex or interracial couple marries in one state that every state has to honor that marriage. The federal government has to honor that marriage as well.
There may be no right closer to the heart than marrying the one that you love.
Colorado understands that.
And I was going to come down here, Madam President, to talk about how over decades, my state has led the way on equality.
We recognized civil unions in 2013.
We banned conversion therapy in my state.
We passed our own version of the Equality Act in Colorado.
I was going to come down here and tell you about how Colorado understands what equality has come to mean in America in 2022.
But in the last week, I’ve been reminded again just how far we have to go.
Last Sunday, Coloradans woke up to the news that Club Q – a loving, accepting, twenty-year old LGBTQ club in Colorado Springs – had been the target of a mass shooting.
Five Coloradans were killed and at least 22 were injured.
In the days since, Coloradans have described Club Q as a center of community building — a place where everyone could be their true selves and live without fear.
Club Q’s owner Nic Grzecka said he founded the club to be “a safe place for people to come and feel and understand that they are normal — that the way they feel is normal and there are people just like them.”
As a father, that’s what I hope for my three daughters.
And as a former school superintendent, that’s what I wish for the children that I worked for.
We want our kids to feel normal, and loved, and like they belong.
But on November 19th, these feelings of safety and acceptance that Club Q had built over two decades were shattered.
On the same day that we recognize the Trans Day of Remembrance, we added more names to that solemn toll in this country, when a violent young man — radicalized by hateful and divisive rhetoric — killed five people and forever changed a community, forever changed my state.
In minutes, he robbed from us brothers, sisters, daughters, sons, friends, and loved ones, who were there just being themselves — not bothering anybody.
He took from us:
Derrick Rump, 38-year-old bartender and co-owner of Club Q, who bought groceries for others during the hardest two months of the pandemic.
Daniel Davis Aston… 28 years old, a bar supervisor known as the “Master of Silliness” because of his contagious happiness and joy.
Kelly Loving…40 years old, who had just moved to Colorado and was trying to enjoy a weekend trip to Colorado Springs.
Ashley Paugh, 35 years old, a devoted mother and nonprofit worker, who loved hunting and fishing like so many other Coloradans and was there to support the community.
And Raymond Green Vance, 22 years old, who grew up in Colorado Springs, had just started a new job, and was saving up for his own apartment.
I am thinking of them, Madam President, and their families, and all those who survived this terrible tragedy in Colorado.
People who imagined that there was one space that you could go to feel safe, and then this happens.
It fills me with rage that it happened. It fills me with sadness. It should fill the entire Senate with rage and sadness.
And if it weren’t for the courage of people like Richard Fierro and Thomas James, the list of names I read – already too long – would have been longer.
Thomas James, a petty officer second class in the Navy, used his military crisis training to help subdue the attacker. He said he jumped into action because he “simply wanted to save the family [he] found at Club Q.”
And Richard Fierro, an Iraq and Afghanistan combat veteran, was watching a friend’s performance inside Club Q with his wife, daughter, and friends inside the club when the gunfire started.
And his protective instincts, Richard’s protective instincts from four combat deployments kicked in. He said he “into combat mode.”
No one enjoying a night with their friends and their family should have to go “into combat mode” in the United States of America.
That is not the country that I grew up in. It is our country today.
It’s the country that the pages in this institution are inheriting from us.
My daughters’ generation, and the children that I used to work for in the Denver Public Schools, they bear a burden that I never bore growing up in the United States.
They have grown up living with a reasonable fear that they could be shot in their classrooms, or in their churches, or in a grocery store, or in a bar that’s the one safe place in their community that they could go.
In 2020, the pages that are here may not know this, in 2020 the leading cause of death for kids in America was guns.
Not car accidents. Not drugs. But guns.
In one study of 29 industrialized countries, the United States accounted for 97 percent of firearm deaths among children four years old and younger.
That’s almost a hundred percent of the kids that are dying on planet Earth from gunfire who are four years old and younger.
What a disgrace. What a disgrace.
We shouldn’t need to count on a stranger’s bravery when we go to a birthday party. We shouldn’t need to count on a stranger’s bravery when we go to the grocery store.
It was just last year when I spoke on this floor to remember the lives we lost in Colorado at the King Soopers in Boulder.
And it’s with unimaginable pain that I’m here once again on this floor with a list of names of people who lost their lives.
Colorado is hurting. We are tired of this, Madam President. For more than two decades, we have had to grieve over one incident after another.
So while we stand here on the verge of taking a historic step toward equality, a vitally important step toward equality, we are reminded once again of just how much work is left to do to give our children the safe and accepting future that they deserve, that they want to have, that we are obligated to give them.
We haven’t finished that work in the United States Senate.
Earlier this year, the Supreme Court stripped away the first fundamental right since Reconstruction by overturning a 50-year precedent in Roe v. Wade.
And in that decision, the majority took aim at the fundamental right of privacy, and with it, the right of every single American to marry whom they love.
And it is a profound reminder, once again, a reminder to everybody in this body and to the country that our history has been from the very beginning a battle of between the highest ideals that humans have ever written down on the page – the words in the Constitution of the United States – and the worst impulses of human history.
And when a Justice of the Supreme Court writes that if it wasn’t a freedom in 1868, it’s not a freedom today, we are in that struggle today.
When a 22-year-old can walk into a club and kill five people and wound more than 20 people, we’re in that struggle today.
The reason we are here today doing important work that we’re doing [in the Respect for Marriage Act] that we’re passing today, is that Americans understand that no good comes from hoarding freedoms and equality.
They know that, when we take the opposite view, we act against our best traditions, against our highest ideals.
As a nation, we will never flourish if we choose to depend on a permanent underclass, deprived of some or all of the rights and freedoms others enjoy.
Free people do not remain free by denying freedom to others.
And today, the Senate of the United States stands on the precipice of advancing freedom, of advancing equality, of moving us closer to our highest ideals.
But tomorrow, we have more work to do to live up to the words of our Constitution and realize the promise of equality for all our citizens.