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- Stoney Bertz
Turn to any major news station, and you will be inundated with information about the dense field of Democratic candidates who will challenge the current president in 2020. In fact, considering the media coverage, you might think the presidential race is the only race happening.
In reality, local and state elections can be more important to a region, as the effects of these elections will permeate through communities in more direct ways. Much of the legislation proposed and enacted at the local and state levels has a more profound effect on the people in that area than the results of national elections.
That’s certainly the case for the LGBTQ community in Colorado Springs.
In addition to the presidential race in November 2020, important state races have the potential to greatly impact laws governing LGBTQ lives. Recently, Gov. Jared Polis signed big wins into law for the LGBTQ community, including House Bill 1129, a ban on conversion therapy for minors, and House Bill 1039, which allows transgender Coloradans to change their gender on their birth certificate without surgical requirements. These victories were outlined in a scorecard compiled by LGBTQ advocacy group One Colorado last month.
But there is more work to be done to include and protect the LGBTQ community. According to Urban Peak, on any given night there are 350 homeless youth in Colorado Springs, and an estimated 20 to 40 percent are LGBTQ. With this in mind, we should be paying particular attention to the impending U.S. Senate race and where the candidates stand on homelessness and other LGBTQ issues.
The Human Rights Campaign released a 2018 municipality index that shows how cities rate on LGBTQ issues based on laws, policies and services. Colorado Springs gets a score of 54 out of 100.
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- If we care about equality in Colorado, Gardner’s got to go.
Incumbent U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, a Republican, is not known for his support of the LGBTQ community. Notably, he voted against LGBTQ adoption rights in 2007 and received low equality scores from the Human Rights Campaign for the last two years. In contrast, according to the Colorado Times Recorder, Gardner received a perfect score from the Family Research Council, which is classified as an anti-LGBTQ hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
One member of our local trans community, Les Sanger, says, “It’s like he doesn’t even see us, like he has no responsibility to us to make sure that we are safe and can live in peace.”
From April through June, Gardner raised $2 million directly for his candidacy, bringing his total cash on hand to $5 million. A dense field of challengers for this upcoming Senate race hasn’t been able to match Gardner’s fundraising prowess. The biggest fundraiser, former state senator Michael Johnston, raised $1.6 million in the last quarter, and has $2.6 million cash on hand.
The challengers vary in experience from the newer campaigns of Dr. Ellen Burnes and Dr. Stephany Rose Spaulding (who is based in Colorado Springs), to Johnston and former Colorado Speaker of the House Andrew Romanoff. Some candidates have been endorsed by LGBTQ organizations, or have platforms regarding specific issues the community faces.
Spaulding was honored by One Colorado with an Ally Award for her work and vision for the community. The “issues” section of her website, under the heading “Everyone Is Welcome. Every. One.” details a commitment to inclusion and advocates for protections against all forms of discrimination.
“It’s like he doesn’t even see us, like he has no responsibility to us to make sure that we are safe and can live in peace.” click to tweetDan Baer, an openly gay candidate for the U.S. Senate, has been endorsed by the LGBTQ Victory Fund.
Diane Bray has specific platform initiatives outlined on her website detailing support for the federal Equality Act and improved services for LGBTQ youth.
In addition, there are candidates who have notable LGBTQ-friendly credentials. Romanoff displayed vigorous support for marriage equality in his 2010 Senate race. Johnston received a perfect score from One Colorado when he was a state senator in 2016.
No matter which candidate takes the lead in the race against Gardner, one thing is glaringly clear: The status quo is not working for all of us. Discord in the current political climate has precipitated a new marketplace of ideas that could prove beneficial to our community.
What is urgently needed at this time is not only pointed policy, but direct confrontation championing an overall environment of inclusion, progress and support for the LGBTQ community in Colorado Springs and the state as a whole.