When Daniel Ramos took over the role of executive director in 2016 for One Colorado, the state’s leading lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer advocacy organization in Colorado, he knew one thing for certain: he was stepping into an oasis of the unknown.
Ramos has been on the forefront of queer advocacy in Colorado, serving as the director of Safe and Inclusive Schools, the political organizer and director of statewide initiatives, and served as University of Colorado’s student body president. His robust resume, alongside his excitable diligence towards the advancement of LGBTQ rights and inclusivity, made him a perfect fit for the role.
“It’s been a great opportunity for me to take over One Colorado and probably the biggest challenge, yet most rewarding thing I will ever do in my life,” Ramos said.
Ramos wears his passion for community, Colorado, and LGBTQ advocacy work on his sleeve—and in his smile. Whether he is addressing a room of a few or a few hundred, his confidence and air of personal responsibility for making Colorado a better place for all is genuine and innate. But, that wasn’t always the case. When the board of directors confidently elected Ramos to step in the role of executive director, Ramos wasn’t so certain he was ready to take the plunge.
“I often joke with people that becoming the executive director was never my dream job,” Ramos explained. “I really loved doing the everyday work of expanding the protections of the LGBTQ folks in Colorado, but the opportunity presented itself for me to take over as leader of One Colorado.”
While he didn’t know quite what to expect, the excitement and energy within his community was undeniable, as Colorado experienced its biggest win a date with the passing of marriage equality. After the victory, many activists considered their work was done, that equality had been achieved.
Ramos knew that much of the battle had only just begun, and he was gearing up to take on the challenges that few knew lay ahead.
“After we won the fight for marriage equality, the movement was really about looking at, what are the experiences of LGBTQ people in other aspects of their lives,” he said. “Then November 2016 happened, and so much changed.”
No time to rest on laurels. Even with the huge strides of progress that marriage equality brought LGBTQ families, the short-lived sigh of relief quickly transitioned into massive steps backwards.
“We are now seeing attacks on immigrants, on women, on people of color, and attacks on LGBTQ people like never before from the federal government,” Ramos said. “We are seeing our opposition as more aggressive than ever, and there have been efforts to undo protections on LGBTQ folks and their families.
“I think we never thought we would be in this place.”
This shaky, new territory has instilled fear. Luckily, this energizes Ramos and keeps him going every, single day. It’s his primary purpose through his position within One Colorado to ensure that individuals and families know their rights and are continually serviced under those protections.
In Colorado, LGBTQ people have a lot of protectiosn. The state has comprehensive, non-discrimination protections in housing, employment, and public accomodations.
There is a massive gap when it comes to the protections available and what people are actually informed about, knowing exactly what to do and what happens when they experience discrimination. This is exactly the reason that One Colorado exists.
“We’ve built a robust statewide network,” Ramos said, “with over 70,000 supporters across the state making sure that LGBTQ Coloradans, their families, and their stories are influencing the decisions that are made.
“Over the last couple of years, we’ve seen a number of victories. We’ve passed legislation in Colorado that specifically protects students from bullying and harassment in schools and have expanded protections for people experiencing harassment based on their sexual orientation or their gender identity.”
Though these challenges refuse to cease, the organization continues to work daily to defeat the heavy pushback from conservative, anti-LGBTQ, and homophobic agendas. Religious exemption efforts from the Alliance Defending Freedom and Focus on the Family persistently usher money and support to weaken non-discrimination laws, such as in cases like the Supreme Court vs. Jack Phillips of the Masterpiece Cake Shop. The work of Ramos and One Colorado continues to be of dire necessity.
“We’ve seen a number of bills, even some ballot measures, aimed at weakening our laws to allow people to say that their religion in fact allows them to ignore the law,” Ramos said. “Fortunately, we’ve been able to kill every, single one.”
His roots are deeply planted in Colorado. Growing up in Sterling, Ramos takes on a personal responsibility. He understands how his influence and the decisions that he makes have a greater reach and impact.
“Growing up in a small town, it gave me this lens of what it’s like to grow up in rural, conservative Colorado,” he said. “To know that here I am, in this moment in history, leading our state’s largest advocacy organization. What’s really important for me is to understand the everyday impact that we’re having on people’s lives.”
Ultimately, Ramos believes that every, single person wants the same thing at end of the day: to be a part of something greater than themselves.
That is why he takes his work and his service to the LGBTQ community so seriously.
“To be in the community, to hear the stories and the struggles and successes of LGBTQ people living their lives all across the state, is the most inspiring thing for me,” he said. “All of us want to belong. When we can come together and find what we share, and we can appreciate why we’re different, I think that’s the most important component of a community.”