The Nebraskan legislature turned the corner yesterday by overriding their Governor’s veto and becoming the first conservative state in 40 years to ban the death penalty. As a consistent pro-life sympathizer, I say kudos to their courageous and historic action.
Like any social change, it was difficult for the unicameral legislature to succeed. Legislators endured a publicity blitz, intense lobbying by the governor and law enforcement groups, and the defection of two legislators, ramping up the drama for this close, cliffhanger of a vote. The 30-19 outcome represented the slimmest of margins possible to achieve a two-thirds majority.
The death penalty is slowly losing its effectiveness as the public realizes there is no way to be sure it is painless, not lethal injections nor the electric chair nor even a firing squad as one state has suggested. Moreover, human life is sacred, both in the womb and in later life, and giving that all-encompassing power to the state is the essence of “big government.”
As the federal government remains paralyzed, the states are slowly taking up the slack on many critical issues such as the death penalty, minimum wage, family leave and much more. But of all these issues, the death penalty stands out due to its irreversibility and uneven manner in which it is applied. According to the latest statistics, juries are much more likely to apply the death penalty to a black man than a Caucasian.
One can only hope for Nebraska’s action to set off a chain reaction until every state does the same, or the Supreme Court realizes its folly and rules that taking a life is a cruel and unusual punishment.