News (USA)

Father of Colo. transgender child to lead ballot initiative for marriage equality

DENVER — The father of a 6-year-old Colorado transgender student who earlier this year won a landmark civil rights case regarding public accommodations, plans to submit a draft of a petition on Aug. 19 to collect signatures asking voters in 2014 to approve same-sex marriage in Colorado.

Jeremy Mathis, 31, and his ballot question to amend the state’s constitution to allow same-sex marriage in Colorado, cleared a title board hearing Aug. 7, he said.

Mathis is Coy Mathis’ father — earlier this year the Mathis family argued Coy’s former school district created a hostile environment for the first grader after Coy was forbidden to use the girls’ restroom.

Brennan Linsley, AP (File)
Jeremy Mathis (right) with his daughter Coy.

The state’s civil rights division, which regulates the Colorado’s nondiscrimination laws, agreed.

The petition must be approved by the secretary of state, mostly a matter of legal formality. Mathis must collect nearly 90,000 valid signatures of Colorado voters in order to put the question on the ballot. He’s confident if he and a grassroots coalition of volunteers can accomplish the Herculean task without a financer, voters will approve marriage equality.

“I’m confident the voters of Colorado will see this for what it is,” Mathis said.

Mathis and Lisa Starcher, a friend from college, filed the petition hours after the Supreme Court struck down portions of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, The Denver Post first reported.

Mathis said his interest in the issue started before his daughter began her transition, but noted trans equality issues are likely to pick up momentum of their own after marriage equality is established.

“Nothing is going to et done until we get gay marriage done and it’s not an issue anymore,” he said.

In July, One Colorado, the state’s largest LGBT advocacy organization, launched a Web-survey to gauge interest of its donors and volunteers in a fight for marriage equality. A statewide listening tour is planned to start later this month.

One Colorado’s Executive Director Brad Clark had previously said the pathway toward marriage must be defined by the community.

The progressive nonprofit was instrumental in winning a three year political debate at the Capitol that established civil unions here in May.

Colorado’s constitution currently defines marriage between a man and a woman. Voters approved that change in 2006. The same year, a ballot referendum to establish domestic partnerships was defeated.

It wasn’t the first time voters limited the rights of gay and lesbian Coloradans. Voters in 1992 passed Amendment 2 which limited municipalities from establishing protections for LGBT residents.

Clark has previously said he’s not willing to put marriage on the ballot unless there is a “reasonable expectation of success.” In other words, a clear majority of Coloradans must support marriage equality and there’s enough money and volunteer hours to insure enough voters will follow through what they tell pollsters and pull the lever for equality.

Political consultants who have spoken with Out Front have suggested a ballot question like this would cost about $5 million from petition to election day and thousands of volunteer hours from La Junta to Craig.

“We understand our shortcomings,” Mathis said. “This is the grassroots movement of the grassroots movement.”

Mathis said he fears if the LGBT community waits too long the momentum from the Supreme Court decision will be lost and he wants to keep the issue top of mind in the public until the freedom to marry is won.

“Barack Obama is going to be in office in 2017 and Gov. Hickenlooper may not be in office after 2014,” he said. “I don’t know what it’s going to be like in four years.”

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