Colorado U.S. Senator Mark Udall at a gay-rights event this weekend in Denver said he supports marriage equality for all Americans. Udall joins a growing list of lawmakers who have gone on record in support of ending the era where the federal Defense of Marriage Act and where constitutional bans like Colorado’s Amendment 43 blocked LGBT couples from the legal protections and advantages provided by the state through marriage. Udall is the 18th sitting U.S. Senator to state publicly that he supports efforts to make gay marriage legal.
At the “Ally Awards” hosted by gay rights group OneColorado Saturday evening, Udall told activist Sunnyvie Brydum that the snowballing incremental approach moving across the nation is the right way to build consensus and change the law.
“I support marriage equality. We have work to do. Let’s go do it,” he said. “I think the way [marriage equality] is unfolding has lessons for all of us. Let’s work in our states. Let’s work on our neighbors. Let’s work with our communities. Let’s work with our elected officials.
“I have no doubt we’ll reach marriage equality in the states and across the nation.”
The awards ceremony celebrated straight people who have worked to advance the civil rights of LGBT Coloradans. Award recipients included Veronica Barela at NEWSED, Bruce DeBoskey of the DeBoskey Group, Jean Hodges of PFLAG and former state Representative Wilma Webb.
In introducing Hodges, Udall related the story of the lesbian and gay service members who came to Washington last December to testify in the hearings that effectively ended the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy, which banned gay soldiers from serving openly. Udall spearheaded the move to lift the policy, calling it anachronistic, discriminatory and a waste of valuable human and financial resources.
Udall said that he felt the tide turned in favor of repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, when the Joint Chiefs asked the soldiers what they would do if the policy were lifted. They all said they would rejoin the military, a sign of dedication that sealed the deal, Udall said.
“Truly I could never forget that testimony… Opponents were chortling. The repeal was in doubt up until the last minute,” Udall said. “Their country had rejected them, but [those soldiers] said they would re-enlist, reapply for their officer commissions.”
The awards ceremony, held at the Botanic Gardens at the center of Denver, impressed in part for the crowd it drew. Udall was joined by U.S. Senator Michael Bennet, state Senate President Brandon Shaffer, state Representative Mark Ferrandino, Lt Governor Joe Garcia, State Senator Jean White, former state senator now head of the state’s office of tourism Al White, former Colorado Springs Mayor Mary Lou Makepeace and former Denver Mayor Wellington Webb.
Stories told by speakers Saturday night underlined how far the movement for gay rights has come over the last decade, from a marginal movement led by a very few cutting-edge civil rights leaders to the kind of movement that draws the support of major mainstream public figures.
OneColorado has only been fully operational in the state for 18 months.