One year since civil unions became law in Colorado, the City and County of Denver leads all other counties in the state with 859 licenses, nearly three times the next closest county.
“There is a concentration of the LGBT community here in Denver,” Debra Johnson the openly gay Denver County Clerk and Recorder says. “But I also think that part of it is our welcoming atmosphere and environment in the Clerk and Recorder’s office.”
Conservative El Paso County came in second, handing out 289 civil union licenses since last May, despite outnumbering Denver County by 178,223 people.
Denver Mayor Michael Hancock says it's a competitive advantage to be a city that is welcoming, accessible and approachable.
"The more diverse your community is, the more people are willing to want to come and live and be a part of your city," Hancock says.
The Denver metro area is the epicenter for civil unions in the state. Clerks in Boulder, Douglas, Denver, Arapahoe, Jefferson, Adams and Broomfield counties granted the majority of civil unions for a combined total of 1,691 since May 1st, 2013.
There was an explosion in civil unions last May, something Johnson attributes to pent up demand. Since then, civil unions are measured in double digits in Denver rather than triple digits. So this last year will likely trump next year in civil union numbers.
Though Johnson celebrates Denver’s 859 civil unions, she concedes it’s not gay marriage. Earlier this year she was forced to deny marriage licenses to a group of gay couples, prompting a still unresolved lawsuit challenging Colorado’s ban on gay marriage.
“To me it’s very heartbreaking that I cannot give marriages to loving couples, regardless of whether they’re homosexual, heterosexual,” Johnson says. “I wish I could do that, but I can't.”