Top Colorado gay rights group weighs in on 2010 elections

Gay rights group One Colorado this week released a list of fifty state candidates it will endorse and throw its fundraising and grassroots volunteer support behind for the 2010 election, now only weeks away. Two Republicans made the list, Larry Liston, a northeast Colorado Springs social conservative, and Kevin Priola, a freshman Representative from Brighton northeast of Denver and a family businessman.

“One Colorado PAC has pledged to raise thousands of dollars, commit hundreds of volunteer hours, and talk to our supporters across the state to ensure these pro-equality candidates are elected this fall,” said Brad Clark, One Colorado executive director in a release.

“These [LGBT] issues are not the political wedge issues they used to be. We’ve seen that all around the country and all around the state,” Clark told the Colorado Independent. “We need to maintain a fair-minded majority [in the Colorado legislature].”

Clark notes that at least five laws on the books passed in the last few years here have made a big difference in the lives of gay people– laws that battle workplace discrimination, extend domestic partnership to state employees and that allow gay people to designate rights to make medical care decisions to their loved ones.

Clark said that One Colorado seeks to advance a broad social justice agenda– for gay and transgender Coloradans but also for ethnic minority groups and the increasing ranks of poor residents of the state– so that in making decisions on which candidates to endorse, a pro-equality stance on gay rights, for example, might be weighed against a harsh stance on the rights of immigrants.

The list of endorsees is based on a survey the group sent out to candidates across the state.

The main priorities for the group include strengthening protections against workplace and hiring discrimination, extending benefits and medical decision-making rights for gay couples and families and making schools safer for minority students.

Another priority is working to oust some of the state’s more high-profile anti-gay lawmakers.

“We’re working to defeat anti-equality candidates like Senator Scott Renfoe who compared homosexuality to murder and ‘detestable acts’ and Representative Ken Summers who is part of a program to ‘convert’ gay teenagers, linking homosexuality to child abuse and drug use!” read the release.

The endorsements come at the end of months of work on the ground in the state undertaken by the group, which conducted a “listening tour” through the summer that included town halls and drew hundreds of residents.

The One Colorado Education Fund also commissioned a survey this summer on attitudes in Colorado toward gay rights completed by independent polling firms Greenberg Quinlan Rosner and American Viewpoint. The survey showed distinct trending toward greater equality and is available as a pdf.

Clark, who came to Colorado this year after heading up efforts at One Iowa, said he was impressed by the enthusiasm evident on the tour. He said the political culture of Colorado set against the political culture of Iowa is both good and bad for gay rights.

“Western culture can be a challenge,” he said. “People are much more outspoken here than in the Midwest about the fact that their rights matter. There’s certainly that live-and-let-live quality, that libertarian ethos that is good on one hand but that doesn’t always work where fairness and equality are concerned.”

He said that, for minorities, community support matters.

“Our friends and neighbors need to feel some connection to us. We have to be willing to stand up for each other.”

Denver Democratic Senator Pat Steadman is one of the lawmakers endorsed by One Colorado. At a recent event in Boulder, he said he might introduce a bill this session establishing civil unions for gay people that would confer the legal rights granted through marriage without legalizing gay marriage, which is outlawed in Colorado by Amendment 43 passed in 2006.

“To be promoting a lesser status for gay people is not ideal,” he said. “But our Constitution won’t let legislators here propose full marriage equality. In the short term, people could really benefit from civil unions.”

Steadman, a former lobbyist for the ACLU and a strong advocate for civil liberties in the Senate, said that the election will shape the 2011 legislative session. Immigration, for example, he said could end up dominating debate.

“We could be playing whack-a-mole,” he said, “where these Arizona-style laws crop up attached as amendments to this and that bill and where there will be a lot of ugliness and scapegoating and race baiting around the issue.

“There’s a lot of strategizing going on right now,” he said. “The election will determine the agenda. November really matters.”

One Colorado PAC Endorsed Candidates for Colorado Legislature

For Colorado House

HD 2 – Rep. Mark Ferrandino

HD 3 – Rep. Daniel Kagan

HD 4 – Dan Pabon

HD 5 – Crisanta Duran    

HD 6 – Rep. Lois Court   

HD 9 – Rep. Joe Miklosi

HD 11 – Deb Gardner    

HD 13 – Rep. Claire Levy    

HD 16 – Rep. Larry Liston

HD 17 – Rep. Dennis Apuan    

HD 18 – Rep. Pete Lee    

HD 22 – Chris Radeff

HD 23 – Rep. Max Tyler    

HD 24 – Rep. Sue Schafer    

HD 26 – Rep. Andy Kerr

HD 27 – Rep. Sara Gagliardi    

HD 28 – Steve Harvey    

HD 29 – Rep. Debbie Benefield

HD 30 – Laura Huerta    

HD 30 – Rep. Kevin Priola    

HD 31 – Rep. Judy Solano

HD 33 – Rep. Dianne Primavera    

HD 35 – Rep. Cherylin Peniston    

HD 36 – Rep. Su Ryden

HD 38 – Rep. Joe Rice    

HD 41 – Rep. Nancy Todd    

HD 43 – Gary Semro

HD 47 – Carole Partin    

HD 49 – Karen Stockley    

HD 50 – Rep. Jim Riesberg

HD 51 – Bill McCreary    

HD 52 – Rep. John Kefalas    

HD 53 – Rep. Randy Fischer

HD 56 – Rep. Christine Scanlan    

HD 59 – Brian O’Donnell 

HD 61 – Roger Wilson

For Colorado Senate

SD 2 – Gloria Stultz    

SD 3 – Sen. Angela Giron    

SD 5 – Sen. Gail Schwartz

SD 6 – Sen. Bruce Whitehead    

SD 7 – Claudette Konola    

SD 11 – Sen. John Morse

SD 13 – Ken Storck    

SD 15 – Rich Ball    

SD 16 – Jeanne Nicholson 

SD 20 – Cheri Jahn    

SD 24 – Sen. Lois Tochtrop    

SD 31 – Sen. Pat Steadman

SD 32 – Sen. Chris Romer    

SD 34 – Sen. Lucia Guzman    

Got a tip? Freelance story pitch? Send us an e-mail. Follow The Colorado Independent on Twitter.

Comments are closed.