Colorado has some of the nation's toughest non-discrimination laws but still has work to do, Republican Attorney General Cynthia Coffman said at a Denver rally for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered equality Sunday.
Coffman, the lone Republican on a stage filled with Democratic elected officials and candidates, told the crowd she could also be the only Republican attorney general in the country taking part in an LGBT pride event.
"I'm not positive - I need to research this - but I think I may be the only Republican attorney general in the country who walks in a Pride parade, and if that is true, I'm going to be challenging all of my colleagues to do this, because there's no reason why we all shouldn't be out here," Coffman said at a rally at the state Capitol after marching down East Colfax Avenue in the annual PrideFest Parade.
"Colorado love knows no boundaries, and Coloradans believe in equality," she continued. "And that is not a partisan message - that is a bipartisan message. No one should be afraid to come out and express that. And I think the more that we do that, the more unity we will see, the better laws we will see in our state."
Looking out over the several hundred people gathered on the west side of the Capitol - and the several thousand across Broadway at the PrideFest celebration in Civic Center Park - Coffman said she'd been coming to the Capitol for some 20 years. "As I was in the parade and coming down Colfax this morning, I thought, I have never seen that Capitol lawn look more colorful, more united than it does today, and I love it."
Coffman is up for reelection next year, although she hasn't officially declared whether she's seeking a second term or will mount a bid for governor. Four Democrats - state Rep. Joe Salazar, D-Thornton, former CU Law School Dean Phil Weiser, Jefferson County prosecutor Michael Dougherty and Denver attorney Brad Levin - are in the running for the office.
"I have to applaud our state legislators," Coffman said, turning to acknowledge several Democratic lawmakers arrayed behind her. "We have some of the best laws on equality and nondiscrimination in the United States, and we worked together this session, the attorney general's office did, to improve our anti-bias legislation in Colorado."
Lawmakers passed bipartisan legislation earlier this year to add physical or mental disability and sexual orientation, including transgender status, to the state's existing statute concerning bias-motivated crimes. The bill was sponsored by state Rep. Mike Foote, D-Lafayette, and state Sens. Dominick Moreno, D-Commerce City, and Don Coram, R-Durango.
"Whatever happens on the national front, and I know there is great fear about what lies ahead because it is unknown to us, let me tell you what we do know about Colorado," Coffman added. "This state, your legislators, your state officials - we will all stand up for gay rights, for human rights in Colorado. And let this next year, let the 2018 legislative session be the year that we finally end the damaging practice of conversion therapy in Colorado."
Senate Republicans in March killed a bill to ban so-called conversion therapy - controversial mental health treatment intended to change sexual orientation or gender identity - for minors. The bill, sponsored by state Rep. Paul Rosenthal, D-Denver, and state Sen. Steve Fenberg, D-Boulder, passed the House with the support of every Democrat and one Republican but then went down in a GOP-controlled Senate committee on a party-line vote. It's the third year the bill has been before the General Assembly.