Seneca Falls in 1848, Gettysburg in 1863 and Topeka in 1954: These sites of major historical import were integral in solidifying the value of equality in the United States. And in 1990, our country summited a new peak when Denver’s City Council adopted an Anti-Discrimination Ordinance, setting the stage for the gay rights movement to gain momentum in avalanche fashion.
This was where former Colorado Senator Pat Steadman began as he addressed a packed conference table of enchanted young lawyers at the Denver Bar Association’s January “Coffee Talk.” The presentation detailed the history of LGBT rights in Colorado — from the adoption of the aforementioned ordinance, which stirred opponents of gay rights across the state to action, to the passage of Colorado’s Amendment 2 and its subsequent demise at the U.S. Supreme Court. While the landmark Romer v. Evans case turned the spotlight on Colorado, subsequent legislation — advocated largely by Senator Steadman himself — solidified our state as a champion for gay rights activism across the country. The path was wrought with obstacles and setbacks, but LGBT activists persevered, amending the Colorado Bias Motivated Crime Act and the School Bullying Prevention Act to include sexual orientation and enacting the Colorado Civil Unions Act in 2013.
Senator Steadman noted that these feats are particularly impressive given the speed at which they were achieved. He commented, “I thought I might see the acceptance of gay marriage in my lifetime but not in 2013.”
For all of the movement’s successes, however, there remains much to be done to achieve true equality and humanity for the LGBT community. Indeed, Senator Steadman acknowledges that his discourse includes a call to civic participation. His message: “It is possible for each of us as individuals to roll up our sleeves and make a difference in our world. It may take years of trying, but investment is rewarded. I’ve found my political activism to be extremely rewarding. I may have taken it further than most people get the chance to do, but I have no regrets. Instead, I’ve got stories to share, lessons I’ve learned. And I’m not done yet!”
The breakfast talk concluded leaving its attendees eager — galvanized — to continue enthusiastic advocacy on behalf of the LGBT community. D
Kaelyn Gustafson is a judicial law clerk to the Honorable Rebecca Freyre on the Colorado Court of Appeals. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.