Monday, January 16, 2012

Why does the legislature dishonor Dr. King?

Why does the Wyoming legislature dishonor Martin Luther King by meeting on the holiday set aside to remember his birthday? The legislature designates state holidays by law and there is no other holiday on which they meet except this one. What’s up with that?

For those with long enough memories, you’ll recall this holiday honoring Dr. King was one the Wyoming legislature resisted enacting for many years until Wyoming was one of the very last states to do so. Even then it took threatened boycotts of the state’s travel destinations and the hard work of former State Senator Harriet “Liz” Byrd to get the job done after several years of trying.

In the end, the legislature reluctantly passed the bill after tacking on a rather tacky amendment. They wanted to say it really isn’t all about Martin Luther King…so they called it “Equality Day” ostensibly to recall another civil rights measure their brethren had enacted also reluctantly a century earlier.

In order to make sure everyone knew they passed the law holding their noses and crossing their fingers, the legislature has refused to actually honor the day. During the 40-day session, the entire legislature meets on that holiday. During the budget session, as they are in this year, the Joint Appropriations Committee meets. Of course, when they meet dozens of more state employees, all of the legislative staff and lobbyists, reporters and others must also give up the holiday in order to attend to the legislators.

By contrast the legislature takes off President's Day, the only other state holiday to occur while they are in session. And they never schedule meetings on any other of the state holidays. Just this one!

Wyoming legislative leaders left little doubt they would create a holiday honoring King only under extreme duress. Their hearts were never in it. They didn’t want to create the holiday but if they had too, they would not actually recognize it…and they never have.

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