* This is the second article in The Advocate's
continuing coverage of four battleground states:
Colorado, Florida, Virginia, and Ohio. Click
here to read the previous installment.
Colorado's Amendment 2 changed the state constitution
to prohibit new laws to protect lesbians and gays from
discrimination. It may have been the biggest gift that
the Radical Christian Right could have given the LGBT
community in that state.
2 brought a lot of allies out of the closet and spurred us
all to action," explained Pat Steadman, a
veteran LGBT activist in Colorado who lobbies on
behalf of Equal Rights Colorado as well as a host of other
progressive organizations. "Nobody expected it to
pass. Segments of the community thought 'I
don't have to get off my couch and do
anything.' Once it passed, those people got off
their couches and we began doing the organizing that
we hadn't done adequately during the vote."
A 1991 law school
graduate, Amendment 2 was Steadman's "big
call" to politics.
With its passage,
he worked to create the legal defense group that
eventually brought the constitutionality of Amendment 2 to
the U.S. Supreme Court. Just four years after it
passed, the measure was struck down on May 6, 1996 in
the 6-3 Romer v. Evans decision. In his
majority decision, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote, "a
State cannot so deem a class of persons a stranger to its
They are words
that Steadman thinks are beautiful and ones he'll
always remember. Given his record since then,
they're also the words that have fueled his
work. Now a partner in Mendez, Steadman & Associates, a
Denver-based political consulting and lobbying firm,
Steadman wrote and helped to pass legislation that has
changed the landscape for LGBT Coloradans.
In 2005, an
amendment to the state hate crimes bill to include sexual
orientation and gender identity was approved. In 2007, the
legislature passed and the governor signed two
important Steadman-written bills -- the second parent
adoption law and the sexual orientation and gender
identity non-discrimination act. The next year, he wrote
legislation that added sexual orientation and gender
identity to every non-discrimination state statute.
areas like jury duty," Steadman explained.
"People haven't been kicked off of a
jury for being gay but if we're going to have laws
like that, they should be totally inclusive."
one loss was the 2006 Referendum 1, which would have given
legal status to domestic partnerships in Colorado. The
voters turned it down by a margin of 53% against and
47% in favor.
Despite that one
loss, Colorado, which has a tradition of voting for the
GOP in national elections, seems to be changing its stripes.
explains it, the Radical Christian Right stronghold of
Colorado Springs, which brings us the likes of James Dobson
and Focus on the Family, also brought some very
conservative Republicans to the state legislature.
But, according to Steadman, their singular focus on
"God, Guns and Gays" backfired. Now the
state, which as of 2007 had more registered
Republicans than Democrats, has a Democratic governor as
well as Democratic majorities in both houses of the
Polls show that
Mark Udall, the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate, is
leading his Republican opponent, Bob Schaffer, by an average
of 6 points, according to RealClearPolitics.com. When
it comes to the Presidential race, the latest Denver
Post poll (conducted September 29th-October 1st)
showed Barack Obama and John McCain in a dead heat, but when
you average out the polling done since mid-September,
Obama leads by 3 points.
"I'm feeling pretty good. I think our nine
electoral votes might go to the Democratic
Presidential candidate," said Steadman. "It
just feels like our state has been slowly turning from
red to purple and maybe even blue. This could the
year. A Democrat hasn't won a presidential race here
since 1992. When Clinton ran for re-election we voted red
again. It feels like we're on the verge of
turning the corner and becoming a full-fledged blue
capital, Denver, is feeling blue--but in a good way.
Talking about Obama's speech at Invesco Field
on the closing night of the National Democratic
Convention, Steadman said that "so many people got to
participate, the buzz is still here. The convention touched
our city in a big way and the energy continues." Steadman cited the amount of voter registration
that is happening as a good indication that people are
energized -- especially since a few years ago the
legislature "screwed up voter registration to make it
can't believe how many people are doing voter reg in
residential areas, lower income neighborhoods, and
neighborhoods that gays and lesbians move into to turn
around," said Steadman. "Folks are sitting at
card tables all over the city to sign people up."
The choice for
President and U.S. Senator are not the only choices
Colorado's voters have to make on Election Day.
There's a ballot initiative that, if passed,
would make a fertilized egg a person for purposes of
Steadman is very
involved in stopping the initiative. He explains that
Colorado is the guinea pig state for ballot initiatives
because it is so easy to get one on the ballot.
stuff usually comes out of Colorado Springs. We'll be
spending a lot of time and every resource to convince
the voters to say no in order to keep the status
Steadman is confident that it will be defeated by a
sufficient margin so it "won't be
exported to other states."
anti-abortion nut groups are seeing a real surge of
mobilization by the pro-choice community."
That's not only good for defeating the
initiative but for helping Colorado become even bluer.