DENVER — It’s been a long hard fight for members of the gay community and those who support them.
Two decades ago, Colorado became known as the “Hate State” after voters approved Amendment 2, which wrote discrimination against gays into the state Constitution.
On Thursday, Governor John Hickenlooper signed the bill legalizing same-sex civil unions in the state of Colorado. The signing ceremony at the Colorado History Musuem marked a historic moment in the ongoing fight for civil rights.
The fight for this particular bill has lasted three years.
The legislation could have passed last May, but former Republican House Speaker Frank McNulty, who opposed the bill, refused to allow a vote on the floor, choosing instead to run out the clock on the entire calendar of bills needing to be passed at the session’s end in order to prevent a final vote.
Last November, Democrats swept competitive statehouse races and took back a House Majority. They went on to elect the sponsor of the civil unions measure, Rep. Mark Ferrandino, D-Denver, Speaker of the House, making him the first openly gay lawmaker to serve in that position.
Ferrandino and his partner, Greg Wertsch, plan to get a civil union, as do seven of the eight openly gay state lawmakers.
Sen. Pat Steadman, D-Denver, the bill’s other prime sponsor and a long-time champion for equality in Colorado, lost his partner of 11 years, Dave Misner, to cancer last summer.
Last week, when the bill passed the full House on a 39-26 vote, those eight lawmakers reflected on the decades-long fight for equality – recounting everything from New York’s 1969 Stonewall Riots to the 1978 assassination of openly gay San Francisco Assemblyman Harvey Milk to the 1998 murder of Matthew Shepard less than 150 miles north of Denver.
“We’ve worked on this for two decades,” Steadman said. “Today is the high point in that struggle. But we’re not there yet. We want to see marriage equality. We believe justice will continue to roll and continue to move forward.”