Strange Bedfellows

"Bill becomes law if governor sins."
--typo in the 1998 Colorado Legislature's pamphlet How a Bill Becomes a Law

Does abstinence make the heart grow fonder?
If so, then the folks calling for Roy Romer's head should be anointing it instead.

The alleged personalities at KNUS radio, chief among them Marty "Let Us Bray" Nalitz, have their shorts in a knot over Romer's recent revelations concerning B.J. Thornberry, and are demanding that he step down from his job. No, not as head of the Democratic National Committee. His other job, the one Romer has held for eleven years: governor of Colorado.

Within 24 hours of calling for his resignation, KNUS reports, it collected over 1,000 signatures. And that was before the one-hour rally at the State Capitol on Saturday--a rally promoted on Nalitz's show--where cross-carrying Coloradans denounced Romer's "very affectionate" relationship with Thornberry, which the governor had explained so creatively eight days before. "Marriage isn't a religious issue," explained Tim Leonard of the U.S. Taxpayers Party, almost as creatively. "It's a divine institution, and it holds our society together."

KNUS promises to deliver the signatures to the governor's office, in denunciation of Romer's "admitted adulterous affair"--even though Romer has admitted to nothing more than affection. His relationship with Thornberry, the governor says, "is not one which is sexual."

But even if wasn't just one long slumber party, KNUS should embrace Romer (in a non-sexual way, please) rather than denounce him. If to eros is human, to forgive is still divine. And putting the most forgiving interpretation on recent events, either Romer is a poster boy for penile implants, or he's the ideal spokesman for a subject near and dear to conservatives' hearts: abstinence.

After all, here's a man who can spend the night in a townhouse with a woman with whom he is "affectionate" but not engage in "a sexual relationship as people know it." (Although the DNC is quick to criticize the "bundling" of soft money, apparently the old-fashioned definition of bundling has never gone out of style.) Here's a guy who admits to sixteen years of foreplay, stuck at first base without ever sliding home.

Currently awaiting action (like Thornberry, no doubt) in the legislature is Representative Marilyn Musgrave's HB 1366, concerning "abstinence education programs pursuant to the provisions of the federal Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996." That's the law that not only reformed welfare, but also endorsed abstinence as a way to "terminate dependence on government benefits by promoting marriage." Those abstinence-encouraging grants are supposed to be handed out by the governor, a major migraine for Musgrave.

But who better to give lip service to the concept of abstinence than our lame-dick governor?

Here are the requirements that Maid Marilyn wants each funded program to meet:

1) Has as its exclusive purpose teaching the social, psychological, and health gains to be realized by abstaining from sexual activity.

Hey! Here's Romer on that very topic: "I needed an infusion of spirit and energy, and I found that in Thornberry. It was a professional relationship that grew into a supportive personal one." See? Healthy, both socially and psychologically.

2) Teaches abstinence from sexual activity outside marriage as the standard for all school-age children.

Hey! Romer goes several decades better: "In the course of 45 years in many marriages in this country, different attitudes develop in a marriage. About 50 percent of them end up in divorce; they can't work them out. But in those who remain married, there still are times in which there are different feelings and different interests, different relationships. In the course of this, about sixteen years ago, I began to work with a person who became a very close professional colleague and a good personal friend...This relationship was secondary. This relationship had limits. We knew what they were." Thanks to Romer's heavily covered press conference, every schoolchild does, too!

3) Teaches that abstinence from sexual activity is the only certain way to avoid out-of-wedlock pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, and other associated health problems.

Hey! At 69, Romer looks fit as a fiddle, able to handle two jobs--and two women--with ease. "Look, if you want to know what I value and what I believe, look at my life. And you ought to look at what I've been doing, and you ought to look at what it is that I care about and what it is that I fight for and what I try to accomplish, and judge me on that."

4) Teaches that a mutually faithful monogamous relationship in the context of marriage is the expected standard of human sexual activity.

Hey! Romer again: "I'm just trying to say there are problems of relationships that arise in most American families. I have mine. I'm not saying that it's unique to all families. I'm not trying to say the way I handled it is a pattern for all families. This is a very strong marriage. We're a very strong family. I like that." What's not to like?

5) Teaches that sexual activity outside the context of marriage is likely to have harmful psychological and physical effects.

Hey! Sure, if Romer's relationship with Thornberry were sexual, he might be in a real pickle. But, of course, that's not the case. "Can we get this straight? I have had a relationship with another woman which is a very fulfilling and, I felt, honorable and beautiful relationship."

6) Teaches that bearing children out-of-wedlock is likely to have harmful consequences for the child, the child's parent, and society.

Hey, no problem here. Although Romer admits he's "not a very sexual person," he managed to go above and beyond the call and fathered seven children within wedlock--and those children went on to make fifteen other children. And not a one of them on welfare (unless you count the daughter currently living in the governor's mansion and serving as her father's chief apologist).

7) Teaches the importance of attaining self-sufficiency before engaging in sexual activity.

Hey! Here's where Romer really fits the bill. When word of his relationship with Thornberry first went public, in 1990, she was his deputy chief of staff, on the state payroll and most definitely not self-sufficient. No wonder Romer denied that anything was going on! After that, Thornberry moved to Washington, D.C., and a job at the Department of the Interior, then on to the directorship of the DNC, where she was self-sufficient enough to accept millions of questionable donations. But after Romer became DNC chair and became accountable for those donations, Thornberry moved again, this time to HUD, where once again she is self-sufficient. Extra added protection, even though the relationship, as we all know, is not "sexual." But isn't it good to have a governor who practices safe non-sex?

In fact, there's only one way that Romer fails to measure up to Musgrave's needs. In addition to HB 1366, she's also introduced an anti-same-sex-marriage bill--for the third time. Although back in 1992 Romer took a firm stand against Amendment 2, after last year's legislative session--and Musgrave's second attempt at a defense-of-marriage act--he charged a task force with assessing the meaning of marriage. (That committee must be working overtime parsing every sentence of Romer's recent declarations.)

Musgrave and her minions have longed for Romer to remove himself from any discussion of sticky social issues--same-sex marriages, abstinence, abortion--the topics that the governor ought to address. But now, with a six-minute smooch captured on film by an unknown surveillance team, Romer's lips are effectively sealed.

And that's the real sin here.

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