Greg Wertsch, left, exchanges rings with his partner, Speaker of the House Mark Ferrandino, at the State Captiol in Denver on Saturday. Lesbian supreme court justice Monica Marquez presided over the ceremony. 
Colo. House Speaker and Partner Get Civil Unionized

By Sunnivie Brydum

Originally published on Advocate.com May 26 2013 4:22 PM ET

Mark Ferrandino, the first openly gay man to serve as Speaker to the Colorado House of Representatives, made it official with his longtime partner, Greg Wertsch, in a civil union ceremony at the state capitol in Denver on Saturday.

Ferrandino was the lead House sponsor and a driving force behind Colorado's enactment of civil unions, introducing legislation for three consecutive years before the bill finally passed earlier this year. LGBT Coloradans began receiving civil union licenses on May 1, but Ferrandino had indicated that he and Wertsch would wait to hold their own ceremony until the Speaker's schedule slowed down after the end of the legislative session. 

So on a bright, clear Saturday afternoon, Ferrandino and Wertsch entered into a civil union on the upper balcony of the state capitol, beneath the building's gold dome. State Supreme Court Justice Monica Marquez presided over the ceremony, a fitting officiant not only because Marquez is the first out lesbian to serve on the state's highest court, but also because Ferrandino and Marquez used to play trumpet together in a church band before either of them were involved in policy. 

Ferrandino and Wertsch had a wedding ceremony with friends and family in 2006, so the Speaker wasn't expecting Saturday's ceremony to be especially momentous. 

"I didn't think it would be," says Ferrandino. "But yesterday, as we signed the documents... we know that we're legally protected and seen by the state as one family. It's significant."

The couple's young daughter watched her dads make their relationship official in the eyes of the state from the audience, with both Ferrandino and Wertsch's parents in attendance. 

Ferrandino noted that because civil unions allow same-sex couples to jointly adopt,  he and Wertsch plan to formally adopt their daughter in the coming months, without having to go through the expensive, time-consuming process of second-parent adoption. 

Ferrandino also noted that Colorado politics took an important step to the left, with Democrats in control of both chambers of the legislature and the governor's office this year. But the work isn't finished, he contends. 

"I think we have to continue to push for full LGBT equality — marriage equality, health care," Ferrandino says. "We've come a long way in Colorado, and I think the legislative session demonstrated that, but we still have a ways to go."

Here's one more image from Saturday's celebration, via Ferrandino's Facebook page: