Colorado’s Evolution Toward Marriage Equality Has Been Incremental, But Quick

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Originally published on June 26, 2015 5:25 pm

Current and former Colorado state Democratic lawmakers are praising the U.S. Supreme Court's decision legalizing same sex marriage nationwide. In the 5-4 decision, the court ruled that same-sex couples have a right to marry under the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

"Today is an amazing day for America and equality, said Democratic former Speaker of the House Mark Ferrandino, who served as Colorado’s first gay speaker and helped pass a bill to make civil unions legal in the state.

"I knew we would get to this day in my life time, but never thought it would come so quickly. I am so proud of our nation's ability to move towards full equality for all people. The work is not done to end all discrimination but today was a gigantic step forward."

Public opinion has shifted rapidly on the issue of gay marriage. Just nine years ago, Colorado voters passed a constitutional amendment defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman.

Currently 14 states have such bans, although Colorado’s has not recently been in effect. In fall 2014, the 10th Circuit, which has jurisdiction over Colorado, ruled last fall that Oklahoma and Utah’s gay marriage bans were illegal.

“In the '90s, Colorado was called the ‘hate state’ with the passage of Amendment 2,” said Rep. Paul Rosenthal, D-Denver, co-chair of the House LGBT Caucus. That amendment excluded LGBT people from anti-discrimination laws and was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.

“Since then, we have acted quickly and broadly on LGBT equality,” said Rosenthal.

The evolution in Colorado since 2006, when same sex marriage was banned in the state, has been incremental. As the tide shifted in favor of gay couples, legislators first began passing laws such as second parent adoption, designated beneficiaries, and banning discrimination in the work place. The first attempts to pass civil unions in 2011 and 2012 were unsuccessful, with many Republicans and religious groups objecting.

"This is bad for children," testified Father Bill Carmody on behalf of the Colorado Catholic Conference, during a 2011 hearing. "Children deserve both a Mom and a Dad."

While much of Colorado’s gay marriage debate has fallen along party lines, there have been GOP advocates. One Republican senator was even voted out of office for backing a civil unions bill.

For Senator Ellen Roberts (R-Durango) it’s always been a straightforward vote. As she said in one committee hearing, she finds no difference between the love and commitment of same sex couples.

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