Our publisher, Jerry Cunningham, is known to, from time to time, observe that we live in amazing times: decades from now, the history books will point to this time as the era when equality blossomed for the LGBT community. And Colorado will play a central role in all of it.
And as exceptional as these times are, Colorado has always been a major player in the advancement of LGBT causes — even in our setbacks.
Months after the 1969 Stonewall Inn riots of New York, what is commonly referred to as the birth of the modern gay rights movement, two brave men in Colorado Springs formed what was perhaps the first LGBT organization in the Rocky Mountain West: the Gay Liberation Front.
One of the men, Truman Harris, died recently. He was 78.
The other, Donaciano Martinez, will be celebrating 50 years of activism next year. And on Oct. 5, Out Front will honor him with a lifetime achievement award at the Second Annual Power Party.
In 1973, a peacefully assembled gaggle of more than 300 gays and lesbians would demand four Denver ordnances, including the outlawing of drag on the streets of the Mile High City, to be removed. The effort, led by the Gay Coalition of Denver, was successful.
Boulder County made national headlines and provided fodder for Johnny Carson in 1975 when on March 26 the county clerk there issued one of the nation’s first marriage licenses to a same-sex couple, David McCord and David Zamora.
Soon enough, Denver was known as the “Gay Oasis of the West.” The old moniker “Queen City of Plains” had a whole new meaning.
By the early 1990s, the Colorado municipalities of Boulder, Denver and Aspen were once again leading the nation by passing anti-discrimination policies that included protections for LGBT people.
But no good deed goes unpunished. Within two years of Denver passing its ordinance, Colorado voters approved a state constitutional amendment to make it illegal for any city to protect LGBT people.
Luckily, one young lawyer, Pat Steadman, was ready to file a lawsuit the next day to stop the new statewide initiative from ever going into effect. It was his preparedness that set up what would become the nation’s first LGBT landmark victory at the Supreme Court, Romer v. Evans, decided in 1996, which in turn laid the groundwork for the marriage victories in courts we’re seeing today.
That lawyer is now one of the most important lawmakers in the state. And this year, we witnessed his legislation to establish civil unions become a reality.
Steadman will also be honored at the Power Party.
While Martinez and Steadman deserve all the accolades and thanks a community can offer, I’m equally excited to honor the Simon and Mathis families.
If Martinez and Steadman represent our past and present, the Simons and Mathises symbolize our future.
The Simons, Fran and Anna, have given up considerable time and privacy to help lobby for the Colorado Civil Union Act. And this year, their son, Jeremy, joined them at the Capitol and at a municipal building May 1, when the family was finally extended the dignity of all Colorado families.
The Mathis family, led by parents Kathryn and Jeremy, stood by their daughter and sister, Coy, just 6-years-old when her school said she wasn’t allowed to use the girls’ restroom because Coy was assigned a male gender at birth. The family filed a complaint with the state against the Fountain–Fort Carson school district and won.
On a recent trip to Pueblo, I was discussing the honorees with my father and grandparents. My father raised some questions about the later landmark victory: who gets to decide if someone — especially a 6-year-old — is transgender? Couldn’t a pervert use trans status to sneak into the restroom and cause harm?
Before I could even take a breath, my soon-to-be-70-years-old grandfather came to Coy’s defense. “That little girl knows more about herself than most adults I’ve met.”
Now, that’s what I call amazing.