Amendment would take slavery language out of Constitution

While Colorado voters this year are going to be mulling over how to vote on such heady issues as single-payer health care and end-of-life matters, the proponents of a little-known measure on this year’s ballot hope voters’ decisions will be a no-brainer.

That measure is known as Amendment T, and it was referred to the fall ballot by the Colorado Legislature to take out a section of the state Constitution that refers to slavery.

Over the years, the Legislature occasionally places referendums on the ballot to ask voters to do away with antiquated laws, such as this one.

While involuntary servitude has been prohibited under state law since 1877, the Constitution still has this language:

“There shall never be in this state either slavery or involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime, whereof the party shall have been duly convicted.”

Three state lawmakers during this year’s session got the Colorado Legislature to place the measure onto the ballot — Sen. Jesse Ulibarri, D-Westminster, and Reps. Jovan Melton, D-Aurora, and Joe Salazar, D-Thornton.

“Clearly, this 140-year-old language allowing slavery is wrong,” said Sister Lee McNeil of Shorter Community A.M.E. Church in Denver, who is a decedent of slaves. “Slavery is not a Colorado value. Let’s move forward toward healing by voting yes on Amendment T.”

More than 100 supporters gathered at the statehouse in Denver on Tuesday to help the main group supporting the measure, Yes on T: Take Slavery Out, kick off its campaign.

The state’s Constitution has other such outdated language that has been declared moot or unconstitutional by other laws or court actions, including the anti-gay amendment approved by Colorado voters in 1991.

The other measure on this year’s ballot that was referred by the Legislature, Amendment U, would exempt possessory interests from the state’s property tax laws. In real estate law, possessory interests are rights to occupy or use land under a lease agreement, such as grazing rights.


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