Puerto Rico thanks Secretary Williams

The four secretaries of state who co-sponsored a resolution in support of self determination and equality for Puerto Rico were Luis Rivera Marín of Puerto Rico, Nellie Gorbea of Rhode Island, Wayne Williams of Colorado and Jim Condos of Vermont. (SOS photo)

The people of Puerto Rico have a special place in their hearts for Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams after Williams co-sponsored a resolution supporting the island’s effort toward statehood.

The flags of the United States and the commonwealth of Puerto Rico.

That’s the word from Puerto Rico’s secretary of state, Luis Rivera Marín, after the National Association of Secretaries of State voted in support of the resolution at its winter conference in Washington, D.C., this week.

The vote on Monday followed a debate where some secretaries said NASS had no business getting involved in Puerto Rico’s quest for statehood.

“I’m so grateful for Secretary Williams’ support for the people of Puerto Rico,” Marín said. “His support has been outstanding and all of the people of Puerto Rico are really grateful for that.”

NASS, the nation’s oldest, nonpartisan professional organization for public officials, requires two Democratic sponsors and two Republican sponsors for resolutions. Marín asked Williams earlier this year about being his fellow Republican co-sponsor.

“I’ve worked hard to make it easy and secure for Coloradans to vote,  and I strongly believe that Puerto Ricans should have the ability to fully participate in our nation’s democracy,” Williams said.

The resolution points out that Puerto Ricans have been U.S. citizens for more than a century, and the people twice voted in favor of statehood, in 2012 and 2017. NASS supports Puerto Rico’s efforts toward attaining statehood, the resolution reads.

Among those opposing the measure was Democratic Secretary of State Bill Gardner of New Hampshire, who said it set a dangerous precedent, and Republicans Jay Ashcroft of Missouri, and Kris Kobach of Kansas. All said the resolution was beyond NASS’ scope.

“The logic of NASS weighing in, according to the terms of the resolution, is the people of Puerto Rico voted on it and NASS is about voting, so therefore we should support the vote of the people of Puerto Rico for statehood,” Kobach.

Colorado and Washington voted to legalize marijuana, Kobach said, but that doesn’t provide the basis for NASS getting involved in their issues on marijuana.

Democratic secretaries of state Nellie Gorbea of Rhode Island and Jim Condos of Vermont also co-sponsored the resolution.

The four members of the Little Rock Nine who traveled to Washington, D.C., to accept an award from the National Secretaries of State are, left to right, Melba Pattillo Beals, Elizabeth Eckford, Carlotta Walls LaNier and Ernest Green. They are talking to Arkansas Secretary of State Mark Martin, whose back is to the camera. (Photo by Liz Gorman for NASS)

“As a third-generation military family,” Gorbea said, “I can’t tell you how important it is to say as a body that we respect the right of that group of people, who are U.S. citizens, to petition their federal government.”

Gorbea and Marín both referred to the NASS lunch the previous day when the association honored the Little Rock Nine.

Ernest Green, one of nine black children who enrolled in all-white Central High School in Arkansas after a 1954 Supreme Court ruling outlawing desegregation, said the group has been honored before but what made the NASS award special is it came from officials who oversee elections.

“You are the critical players,” Green said, when he accepted the award. “It’s not who we elect to office but how we get that election done.”

The Little Rock Nine ceremony, Gorbea said, “was an absolutely perfect frame for these conversations.”

The resolution passed on a 21-13 vote.