As Colorado legislators debate the outcome of a civil unions bill, for many it may be easy to lose sight of the population it most affects (clearly excepting the legislature's four openly gay members, one of whom sponsored the bill). For Denver's Mayor Michael Hancock, the issue hits far closer to home.
Hancock grew up in northeast Denver with nine other brothers and sisters. One of his siblings, Robert, was gay. And at a recent LGBT meet and greet, he shared a very personal story: Robert died of AIDS in 1996.
In a video posted on Out Front Colorado, Hancock says,
I remember very clearly standing next to him... while he lay in the bed at the hospital, and talking to him. And my brother told me a couple things that I will never forget. One is, he says, Gay people are human ... Treat me as a human being. And then he looked at me and he said, 'Michael I know that you're going to stay involved in politics. Do everything you can to continue to fight so that poor people don't have to die of this disease, because they don't have to' ... And two, he says, is never ever stop fighting. For us.
The Mayor then explained in a stirring speech that even though his brother's partner loved him, he was unable to make decisions on his behalf. "I couldn't have loved my brother more than his partner did," said Hancock. "And I'll tell you something: that was my biological brother who I loved with my very being, but I could not have loved him more than that guy in the corner... and I thought it was a damn shame that he couldn't make decisions on his behalf."
Hancock concluded with a statement of support for Colorado passing a civil unions bill this session. "We are way overdue," he said. "Government should not legislate who you love and who you commit your life to. And as my brother taught me, love does not recognize gender, race, or ethnicity. We can do better than that as a people."
Denver's first openly gay council member, Robin Kniech, told the Denver Post she appreciated the vulnerability of Hancock's speech.