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Topics In the News
Historic Election Night: Karma in Colorado
Posted by: Claude J. Summers on 11/09/12
Last updated on: 11/09/12
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Mark Ferrandino.

In May 2012, Colorado Republicans in the state's House of Representatives filibustered a civil unions bill, causing great frustration in the state's glbtq community. However, activists made the civil unions defeat a major issue in the 2012 legislative campaign, and on November 6, 2012, Democrats were given control of both houses of the legislature. Even more delicious, openly gay Democrat Mark Ferrandino, who was a chief sponsor of the civil unions measure, has been selected as Speaker of the House, replacing Republican Frank McNulty who killed the bill.

As we reported here, during the regular session of the Colorado legislature, the Republican Speaker of the House Frank McNulty used stalling tactics to deny a vote on a civil unions bill that had already passed the Senate and had sufficient votes to pass in the House. In response to the disappointment expressed by the bill's supporters, Governor Hickenlooper called a special session of the legislature to deal with civil unions. This time McNulty spitefully referred the bill to a committee that promptly killed it.

The glbtq community was outraged by the Republicans' tactics in refusing to allow a vote on the bill. Following the lead of FightBackNewYork, which organized to defeat legislators who voted against same-sex marriage in New York in 2010, Colorado activists targeted for defeat members of the legislature who opposed civil unions. They also made the question of civil unions a major campaign issue.

In the election of November 6, 2012, voters responded by giving control of both houses of the Colorado legislature to Democrats, who now have a 37-to-28 majority in the House and a 20-to-15 majority in the Senate.

House Democrats promptly acted to name as Speaker of the House of Representatives Mark Ferrandino, an openly gay man from Denver who was a chief sponsor of the civil unions bill.

Ferrandino will be the first openly glbtq legislator in Colorado history to preside over the House when he accepts the gavel on January 9, 2013, the first day of the new legislative session. Ferrandino is one of eight out glbtq lawmakers in the Colorado legislature.

"It's definitely very humbling," Ferrandino said, "and I'm excited to be able to get to work and try and pass good policy for the people of Colorado."

With Ferrandino as Speaker, Democratic majorities in both the House and Senate, and a governor who has been an outspoken advocate for civil unions, the twice-failed legislation is nearly certain to pass in the upcoming legislative session.

Ferrandino told Sunnivye Brydum of The Advocate that he and his openly gay Senate co-sponsor Pat Steadman "have always said we are going to keep introducing [civil unions] until it passes. We'll definitely introduce it next year, and I think next year will be the year that it passes given the change in leadership. We have a majority in the House and Senate who will support the bill, and a leadership who will bring it up, unlike last year."

Dan Frosch reports in the New York Times that following his selection as Speaker, an emotional Ferrandino said "Twenty years ago, Amendment 2 passed in Colorado. And now we have our first openly gay speaker. I think that is an amazing turnaround for our state. It speaks volumes for how much we've grown."

The allusion to Amendment 2 is to a constitutional amendment that banned laws protecting gay men and lesbians from discrimination. In a landmark decision by the Supreme Court of the United States, Romer v. Evans, written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, it was declared unconstitutional.

Colorado joins California and Rhode Island in having openly glbtq Speakers of the House.

Ferrandino and his husband Greg Wertsch recently welcomed into their lives a foster child whom they hope to adopt.

In the video below, from May 14, 2012, Ferrandino speaks of his frustration at the Republicans' abuse of power in killing the civil unions bill.

In the video below, Ferrandino speaks after his selection as Speaker of the House.

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