LGBTQ lawmakers reflect on growing diversity at the state Capitol

Posted at 9:24 PM, Jun 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-09 23:36:28-04

DENVER — The Colorado Legislative Session just wrapped up at the state Capitol, and it may be one of the most diverse groups of lawmakers in history.

As we celebrate Pride Month, Denver7 sat down with several members of the LGBTQ Caucus to reflect on how we got here, their unique interests and issues important to their constituents.

“I am so proud that we are representing in the general assembly,” said Rep. Leslie Herod, D-Denver. “We have Latinx, queer members, we have bisexual and trans and gay and lesbian members, so we really are, I believe, reflecting our community.”

Herod is the first African American LGBTQ elected official in Colorado.

She has worked to pass laws that ban discrimination on the basis of hairstyle and police reform.

Herod says her sexuality has not held back her career but propelled it forward.

"It gave me the ability to have honest conversations with many different kinds of people because I represent many different experiences,” Herod said.

It’s those lived experiences that are diversifying the conversation happening between decision-makers at the state Capitol.

“There is a colleague I work a lot with on business issues who wrote me a note. Basically said he was sorry for moving forward with anti-trans, anti-LGBTQ bills because he was wrong. It is not who he is, and he wouldn’t do it again,” Herod said.

Rep. Brianna Titone, D-Arvada, was elected in 2018 and is chair of the LGBTQ caucus.

“My personal experience as a trans person and the way people treat me or mistreat me and the way people tell me their personal stories in private, I can communicate those things to others,” Titone said.

Her main focus is not on being trans but on the issues important to her constituents.

“What I want to be known for is getting the job done and focusing on what people are talking about and working really hard for the constituents,” Titone said.

She has sponsored over a dozen pieces of legislation this session, including a bill to require insurance companies to cover an annual mental health exam.

Freshman member Rep. David Ortiz, D-Littleton, is openly bisexual. He forced the state Capitol to confront a long-overdue change.

“The statehouse floor was not accessible for people living in wheelchairs until I got elected,” Ortiz said.

Ortiz flew helicopters for the Army and survived a crash that left him paralyzed from the waist down. He is an advocate for veterans and the LGBTQ community.

“As a caucus, as legislative leaders, I’d like to see us reaching out to the community more and trying to mentor and support those that are under-represented,” Ortiz said.

Ultimately, each lawmaker hopes the future elects more LGBTQ lawmakers as they work for a safer and more accepting community.

According to the Victory Institute, there are 843 LGBTQ elected officials in the U.S., which is an all-time high.

Yet, those numbers would have to increase by about 20,000 to appropriately represent the LGBTQ population in the country.

“I don’t want to be the first and only. I want to be the first with a whole bunch of other people who come behind me,” Titone said.

Each lawmaker we spoke with said they welcome a conversation from anyone thinking about a future in politics.