It took the legislature a few years, but when civil unions passed this year it carried a meaning that was both bittersweet an extra special to Colorado openly gay State Sen. Pat Steadman.
Now the White House will be honoring Steadman (D-Denver), along with nine other LGBT elected officials on Wednesday, with the "Harvey Milk Champions of Change" award.
Steadman has fought for equality issues in Colorado for over two decades. In 1992, he fought against the state's Amendment 2, the voter-approved anti-gay initiative that dubbed Colorado as the "hate state" before it was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1996.
In 2011, Steadman and State Rep. Mark Ferrandino (D-Denver) introduced the civil unions bill for the first time in Colorado, and introduced it again in 2012 when it failed to pass.
Then this year's bill, Senate Bill 11, was finally signed into law by Gov. John Hickenlooper in March, taking effect at the beginning of this month andprompting couples to get midnight civil unions.
Steadman said that he'd deliberately picked the number 11 for this year's civil unions bill. He had lost his partner of 11 years, Dave Misner, just last September to pancreatic cancer. Misner had been born on May 11.
After the passage of SB 13-11, Steadman read this poem:
11 is a prime number.
Eleven is a lovely word.
It's binary; a pair of ones.
It's two like things, bound together,
to make a whole of ones.
“It was a really a surprise when I found out about this,” Steadman told FOX31 Denver. “To be invited to White House and given this award by the president, it doesn’t get much better than that.”
In 1977 Milk became the first openly-gay person elected to public office in California, though he served for less than a year before he was assassinated. Wednesday would have been Milk's 83rd birthday.
“When President Obama posthumously awarded Harvey Milk the Medal of Freedom in 2009, he praised his leadership and courage in running for office. Today, we honor Harvey Milk’s legacy in these ten outstanding public servants, who will surely inspire the next generation of public servants,” said Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor to the President in a news release.