One Colorado Endorses Pro-Equality Candidates
After a rough year that included the May defeat of a same-sex civil union bill, statewide LGBT advocacy group One Colorado released a list of endorsements for the upcoming 2012 elections on September 13. This slate of candidates is made up of 67 Democrats and one Republican who have pledged to support, or have a history of supporting, measures that promote equality for gay and transgender Coloradans.
"Our supporters were incredibly angered by what happened in May, particularly the Speaker’s blatant abuse of his power," said One Colorado’s Executive Director Brad Clark. In the upcoming elections, it is One Colorado’s goal to harness that anger and work to put pro-equality candidates in office so as to "make sure that what happened in May never happens again."
In May, a bill that would have legalized same-sex civil unions, offering gay and lesbian couples the same rights as their heterosexual counterparts, died in the House. The bill had enough supporters to pass, including several Republicans, but its opponents, led by Republican House Speaker Frank McNulty, used procedural tactics to delay a vote and prevent the bill from being considered by the full chamber. Gay and transgender Coloradans, their families, and their allies were infuriated by what many saw as blatant political maneuvering, especially since this goal seems to be in line with what a majority of Coloradans support and believe in. A poll released by Public Policy Polling in August indicated that 57 percent of Coloradans (79 percent of Democrats, 60 percent of independents, and 34 percent of Republicans) support granting same-sex couples the right to civil unions.
According to Clark, support for gay and transgender rights is "becoming purple," as Republicans are increasingly willing to cross party lines in support of same-sex marriage or marriage equivalents.
"This long-term battle will not be won if it continues to be a party issue," said Clark, pointing out that although the national Democratic platform supports gay marriage while the Republican platform opposes it, individual candidates don’t necessarily vote along party lines.
Clark and One Colorado are optimistic about the bipartisan future of the gay rights movement, but this year One Colorado’s list of endorsements includes only one Republican candidate: Rep. Cheri Gerou of Jeffco, who joined Democrats in May to support the civil union bill, passing it through the House Appropriations Committee. (Several other Republicans who supported the bill are not up for reelection this year, including B.J. Nikkel and Don Beezley, both of whom voted in favor of the bill in committee.)
"This isn’t a partisan conversation. [I]n my mind, this is a basic human rights conversation," said Gerou at the time.
In determining which candidates to support, One Colorado uses a survey to determine a candidate’s views on issues impacting gay and transgender Coloradans. They also take into account a candidate’s viability, and are more likely to endorse an incumbent. One Colorado urges donors to give to pro-equality candidates, and encourages supporters to give time as well as money, through activities like volunteering at a phone bank for Representative Daniel Kagan or going door-to-door to drum up support for Tony Exum.
"What happened at the end of the session [in May] has made people inspired," said Clark, noting that community involvement is high.
The 2012 election could make an enormous difference to the future of LGBT rights in Colorado, and many legislators are every bit as energized as One Colorado and its volunteers.
"We have seen tremendous movement in opinions and in the halls of power supporting civil unions from all Coloradans, regardless of party affiliation," said Tracy Kraft-Tharp, one of One Colorado’s endorsees. "The equality that once seemed impossible will come to Colorado next legislative session, and I will fight right alongside you."
Mark Ferrandino, another endorsee and the sponsor of the bill that died on the floor in May, echoed this sentiment.
"This election is critical to continue the progress we have made towards equality for the LGBT community in Colorado," he told EDGE. "Last session, we saw Right wing extremists shut down democracy to ensure that civil unions did not get a fair hearing. LGBT Coloradans must be active and engage in this election to hold the Republican leadership accountable and ensure we can continue towards the path of full equality."
Along with 68 Colorado candidates, One Colorado has endorsed President Barack Obama for the upcoming election, with Clark saying, "This President has done more for gay and transgender Americans than any President in history."
In addition to working to elect pro-equality candidates, One Colorado’s advocacy extends to many issues that address LGBT Coloradans, from civil unions to health care access to making schools safer for gay and transgender youth. Ultimately, Clark notes, LGBT voters care about the same things other voters care about: jobs, health care, and being able to feed their families. These issues, not just civil unions, will determine the outcome in November, and beyond.
For more info, visit www.one-colorado.org/