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Pat Steadman
Fights to Turn Colorado Blue 

Pat Steadman
Fights to Turn Colorado Blue 


Since Colorado's Amendment 2 changed the state constitution to prohibit new laws to protect lesbians and gays from discrimination in 1992, LGBT activist Pat Steadman has been at the forefront of Colorado's equal rights battle. Now, for the first time since that year, Colorado looks like it could well swing Democrat in November's election, thanks in large part to the work of Steadman and Equal Rights Colorado.

* 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.

In 1992, 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.

"Amendment 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 laws."

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.

"It covers 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."

Steadman's 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.

As Steadman 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 legislature.

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 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 state."

The state 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 harder."

"I 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 constitutional law.

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.

"This 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 quo."

Thankfully Steadman is confident that it will be defeated by a sufficient margin so it "won't be exported to other states."

"The 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.

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