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Rep. Mark Ferrandino: Colo. Democrats Pick State's 1st Openly Gay House Speaker

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Rep. Mark Ferrandino, D-Denver, speaks at a rally supporting Civil Unions at the Capitol in Denver. (AP Photo/Ed Andrieski) | AP

DENVER -- Colorado Democrats have elected the first openly gay House speaker in state history, giving control of the chamber to a man who was the public face of a fierce debate over civil union legislation that Republicans defeated six months ago.

Democratic lawmakers on Thursday picked Denver Rep. Mark Ferrandino to lead the state House, which they re-took in this week's election. His election won't be official until lawmakers reconvene in January and Republicans ratify the pick.

According to the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, there are currently two openly gay House speakers in state legislatures: John Perez in California and Gordon Fox in Rhode Island.

Ferrandino's ascent is particularly notable in a state where voters banned gay marriage six years ago, and prohibited municipalities from passing laws to protect gays from discrimination 20 years ago.

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