DENVER — When the Colorado General Assembly opened for business on Jan. 9, a transition of political power from the Republican Party to the Democratic Party established one the most diverse political bodies in the state’s history — including eight openly gay and lesbian lawmakers — and the closest thing to a guarantee in politics that by May 1, same-sex couples here will be able to form civil unions sanctioned by the state.
And there was plenty of pomp, circumstance and history for everyone.
While hundreds of lobbyists and politicos crowded in the third-floor gallery to watch history unfold, from a make-shift front row, John and Stephaine Ferrandino watched a dream came true — not because their son Mark Ferrandino just became the first gay man in Colorado’s history to assume one of the most powerful positions in state politics, Speaker of the House, but because, as John said, “it’s always a wonderful thing for a parent to see his kid’s dream come true.”
“Not every parent gets to see that,” his father added.
History aside, in his opening remarks, Ferrandino blended bipartisan rhetoric with clear legislative priorities.
“The investments of previous generations have allowed Colorado to grow and prosper, and we have a responsibility to build on what previous generations have handed to us,” Ferrandino said in his remarks after being unanimously voted speaker of the House. “By working together, we will build an even great state of Colorado that we will be proud to hand off to the next generation.”
While issues like the state’s budget, the economy and a response to the Aurora theater massacre still need to be sorted out — and Ferrandino made note of each in his address — the fate for the Colorado Civil Union Act, a bill re-introduced for the third time Jan. 9 and that will establish relationship recognition for same-sex couples here, was predetermined on Election Day last year after Ferrandino helped orchestrate a Democratic victory that claimed every competitive House race and gave his party a nine seat majority.
Ferrandino was first appointed minority leader in late 2011 after state Rep. Sal Pace (D-Pueblo), stepped aside to focus on his Congressional bid. Since taking over control of the caucus one of his top priorities was to restore its majority it lost by one seat in the 2010 elections.
House district lines favorable to the Democrats, millions of dollars, a down ticket effect from the Presidential race and a sea of enthusiasm from Colorado’s progressive coalition with added tide from a nationwide network of donors supporting gay rights helped the self-proclaimed budget wonk establish his wins.