DENVER — Gay Rep. Mark Ferrandino (D-Denver) is the newly elected Democratic leader in the Colorado State House, after Rep. Sal Pace stepped down to focus on a U.S. Congressional run, according to the Associated Press.
Ferrandino — who last year authored legislation to legalize civil unions in Colorado — will lead the minority party as it attempts to erase the Republicans’ razor-thin majority in that chamber next year. Ferrandino’s civil unions bill failed to pass last year, but he is expected by many in the LGBT community to push for the measure again in the next legislature.
“We’re really happy for Mark,” said Denis Dison, Victory Fund’s vice president of communications. “He’s an outstanding legislator and he’ll be a terrific leader for his party. Colorado could see a number of openly gay and lesbian candidates for the state legislature next year, and with Mark at the helm of the Democratic caucus it’s possible there will be reinvigorated efforts to pass pro-equality legislation.”
As the Victory Fund’s Gay Politics Blog notes, if the chamber returns to Democratic control in 2012, Ferrandino will become the state’s first openly gay majority leader. In 2007 the Massachusetts Republican Party chose gay Sen. Richard Tisei (R-Middlesex & Essex) to lead the minority party in that state’s upper house. Tisei was not officially on record as being gay, however, until November 2009, though upon coming out, Tisei claimed to have never been in the closet.
In February 2010, Gordon Fox (D-Providence) assumed the speakership of the Rhode Island House of Representatives, followed by John Pérez(D-Los Angeles) the following month in California.