Known as the â€œSally Tally,â€ counting the number of years same-sex couples have been together has become a beloved tradition at the Freedom to Marry Day in Fort Collins.
As same-sex couples of all ages crowded the stage in Old Town Square, the rainbow flag blowing in the wind behind them, their years of commitment were added together.
The final count: 214 years.
â€œMultiple lifetimesâ€ of being together and in love, Mac Simon, the Northern Colorado representative for OneColorado, announced the number to a cheering crowd, amazed, he said, at the dedication of the community that had rallied for the event on Sunday.
And itâ€™s that devotion that brought almost 250 people to the 12th annual Freedom to Marry Day, raising their collective voice to demand equal rights and opportunities with those they love.
â€œThis event serves as a rally cry for those who feel marriage equality is long overdue in Colorado and the nation as a whole,â€ said Amanda Keller, one of the eventâ€™s organizers, in an e-mail to the Collegian. â€œIt is a
day to celebrate each other and to inspire our community to make changes.â€
â€œSame-sex couples have the same right to recognition and respect,â€ said Laurie Gudim, a woman who has been in a relationship with her partner for more than two decades.
â€œI am a woman who loves women,â€ she said to cheers in the crowd. â€œWe are married in every single possible sense except we donâ€™t have that legal status.â€
A mother and dedicated lover, Gudimâ€™s partner Rosean Amaral believes her family and others deserve recognition and rights that others receive without question.
â€œ(Laurie) is my partner until death does us part,â€ Amaral said. â€œI am free to be the best I can be in all that I am.â€
And with the help of new legislation, it seems all same-sex relationships could soon be all they could be legally and with more rights.
On Valentineâ€™s Day, an answer to their hopes came with the introduction of SB-172 to the Colorado Senate by Sen. Pat Steadman, an openly gay legislator.
An â€œimportant step in the right direction,â€ as Simon called it, the bill would allow same-sex couples to enter into civil unions, affording them many rights currently denied them, including:
The right to make end-of-life decisions,
Access to medical care information,
Placement in the same retirement home and
The ability to change names.
A â€œhuge stepâ€ for the state, as Rep. John Kefalas, D-Fort Collins, described it, allowing same-sex civil unions would bring Colorado in line with the other â€œfair-minded states that have already done so.â€
Assumed to make it through the state Senate, SB-172 — or Civil Union Bill — will face its struggles in the stateâ€™s House of Representatives where the Republicans hold a slight advantage.
As the House sponsor for the bill, Rep. Mark Ferrandino, D-District 2, said in a phone interview, his job for the next few months is going to be recruiting support among those Republican representatives, confident that most Democrats already intend to vote for it.
The question, Ferrandino said, is â€œWill the House be as supportive as the people they represent are?â€
But after years of improving rights for the GLBT community in Colorado, including strides in hate crime legislation and an inclusive employment non-discrimination act, he said he sees the stateâ€™s opinions toward GLBT issues moving in the right direction.
Especially with more people being out and open about it, Ferrandino, who is also gay, said he attributes part of the stateâ€™s progression with this trend of coming out publicly.
â€œBeing open about who they are is changing the attitudes in the state.â€
But as he admitted, the legislature is often slow to align with public opinion, something he said he hopes will change, helping representatives to â€œcatch up with the people.â€
And it looks like this bill may help that happen.
But until then, GLBT couples are ready to fight for their rights.
â€œLaws definitely need to be changed, but there are other means of support,â€ said Kaylyn Kardavani, a sophomore political science major.
And this event, a public cry for awareness and acceptance, is one such support system.
â€œIt makes it visible,â€ she said. â€œIt makes the support visible.â€
As Andy Stoll, the executive director of the Lambda Center said in an e-mail to the Collegian, â€œContinued visibility is the only way to hold our community accountable for treating all families equally.â€
â€œEvery year we will come out and visibly remind the community that our families are still not treated equally by the law,â€ he said, and it was clear by the show of support Sunday that the Fort Collins community is ready to keep fighting for those rights.
But as Donnie Schultz reminded the crowd in his speech, it isnâ€™t just about the fight, but the eventual hope of enjoying the rewards.
â€œI look forward to a day when we arenâ€™t fighting for our rights,â€ said Schultz, the former president of Aims
Community Collegeâ€™s Gay-Straight Alliance.
â€œI look forward to a day when we are living them.â€
Design Editor and Copy Chief Alexandra Sieh can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.