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Colorado ballot initiative seeks to strike slavery from state law

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Colorado voters this fall will have a chance to finally put an end to legalized slavery.

Wasn’t there a Civil War about that? And wasn’t there an amendment to the U.S. Constitution about that too?

Yes, and yes. But 19th century references to legal slavery still exist in Colorado’s constitution.

Article 2 of the state constitution says that “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.”

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And this clause is still used today to justify prisons run by corporations, according to representatives of the No Slavery, No Exceptions campaign and the social justice group Together Colorado.

“Healing begins with removing racially dividing symbols that are no longer a part of our identity as Coloradans,” said Reverend Tawana Davis in a statement. “This process will allow us to work towards unity with an identity founded in freedom and equality.”

Sharon Bridgeforth of Together Colorado told a Senate committee last month that removing hurtful and archaic language will “lead to conversations across communities about how we see, and should treat, one another in all facets of our lives.”

Democrats Sen. Jessie Ulibarri of Westminster and Reps. Jovan Melton of Denver and Joe Salazar of Thornton put together a measure to send to voters, asking them to eliminate language on legalized slavery from the state constitution.

The measure, Senate Concurrent Resolution 16-006, received unanimous support from both State, Veterans and Military Affairs committees in the House and Senate, and unanimous votes from the Senate and House, which passed the measure Wednesday.

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The resolution, which will appear on the November 2016 ballot, strikes everything after the word servitude, leaving simply “There shall never be in this state either slavery or involuntary servitude.”

Period.

By Marianne Goodland, The Colorado Independent

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