Pat Steadman, champion for the underdog

Gov. John Hickenlooper high-fives Sen. Pat Steadman, D-Denver, after signing Senate Bill 11, establishing civil unions for same-sex couples in Colorado, on March 21, 2013, at the History Colorado Center in Denver. (Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman)

So, Pat Steadman is finally going to let One Colorado honor him for all the work he has done to better the lives of the state’s gay and lesbian residents.

The former state senator has been passionate about gay rights for more than two decades — he cried in the streets of Denver the night Coloradans in 1992 passed Amendment 2, which prohibited laws from protecting gays from from discrimination.

“It was a very volatile, explosive evening with lots of raw emotion. It was a huge wake-up call,” Steadman said in an interview with The Denver Post in 2013.

That’s the year the legislature finally passed his measure to allow gay couples to enter into civil unions. It was a bittersweet victory for the Denver Democrat — his partner of 11 years died of pancreatic cancer a few months before the session began.

Steadman, who was term limited after the 2016 election,  will receive One Colorado’s Lifetime Achievement Award at the Four Seasons Hotel in Denver on Aug. 26.

The One Colorado Education Fund also is handing out three Ally Awards, including one to former Colorado Supreme Court Justice Jean Dubosky, the lead attorney in Romer v. Evans, the monumental 1996 U.S. Supreme Court decision that overturned Amendment 2.

Steadman previously has turned down One Colorado’s efforts to honor him.

“I wasn’t done yet,” he said recently. “I’m still not done, but I’m done with my time in the legislature.”

Former state Sen. Pat Steadman, D-Denver, and former Sen. Dorothy Rupert, D-Boulder (Steadman picture)

During his tenure at the Capitol, first as a lobbyist and then as a lawmaker, Steadman was a champion for all kinds of underdogs, including addicts and inmates. He fought for women’s reproductive rights.

Steadman became a senator in 2009 after being tapped to fill a vacancy. During a battle over civil unions two years later, Sen. Mike Johnston’s recollection of their swearing-in ceremony provided material for a poignant blog.

In 2012, a civil unions bill passed the Democratic-controlled Senate but died a dramatic death in the Republican-controlled House on the second to last night of the session. When Democrats regained control of the legislature after the election that November, Steadman knew that civil unions would pass the next session. He deliberately chose the bill number: Senate Bill 11. His late partner, Dave Misner, was born May 11. They had been together 11 years.

Steadman wrote this poem after the bill passed.

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.

The other Ally winners are Kaiser Permante and Rathod Mohamedbhai, a Denver-based law firm, are being honored. Ernest Luning of Colorado Politics reported that Kaiser is being recognized for its role removing barriers to treatment of transgender patients and generally improving the experience of all LGBT patients, while the civil rights and employment law firm has helped bring together the Muslim and LGBT community.

Last year’s honorees were Nita and Rudy Gonzales and the Gonzales family, Kristin Strohm, Dr. Dan Reirden and powerhouse attorney Ted Trimpa, who received the Lifetime Achievement Award.