Same-sex marriage is now legal in Colorado, Washington, D.C. and 30 other states. The Supreme Court decided Oct. 6 that they would refuse to hear appeals from lower courts, which aimed to ban same-sex marriage.
In an Oct. 7 news release, Colorado Attorney General John Suthers said, “Beginning today, Colorado’s 64 county clerks are legally required to issue licenses to same-sex couples who request them.”
Pueblo County was one of two Colorado counties that were allowed to issue the licenses immediately after the Supreme Court’s decision. The other was Larimer County.
“For me personally, it hits close to home because now I can really envision myself getting married and having it legally recognized in the place that I call my home,” said Lexi Santistevan, president of CSU-Pueblo’s queer-straight alliance group, Prizm.
“It’s kind of this new dawn we’re stepping into,” she said.
Before the Supreme Court’s decision, Colorado legislation allowed same-sex couples to enter into civil unions.
Civil unions provide same-sex couples with rights that would allow them to take time off work to care for an ailing partner or adopt children together.
“I personally don’t like civil unions just because I do come from a religious family so I want to get married,” Santistevan said.
“I don’t want to ask a girl to ‘civil union’ me.”
Now that same-sex marriage is legal in the state, couples of all orientations have the same rights in terms of marriage.
“The fact that clerks are now legally required to give out same-sex marriage licenses is really awesome,” Santistevan said.
Prizm decided to identify itself as a queer-straight alliance group last year.
“That’s mainly because queer is encompassing of the entire community. It encompasses the trans community as well, whereas gay is just lesbian and gay,” she said.
“Queer also encompasses bisexuals and people who have different gender expressions that aren’t necessarily under the scope of gay or lesbian.”
Santistevan thinks the queer community is becoming more accepted by society.
“I think we’ve definitely come a long way from the stonewall riots and Matthew Shepard and all of these major events that have really shaped our community and who we are today,” she said.
The stonewall riots were sparked in 1969 after a police raid on a gay nightclub in New York.
Matthew Shepard was a gay student at the University of Wyoming who died in October 1998 from severe head injuries after being brutally beaten by two men.
“I guess in a way, (being gay) is becoming more socially acceptable as well because people are becoming more comfortable with coming out and being who they are and they’re not really hiding themselves anymore.”
Still, Santistevan thinks more can be done to promote acceptance of the queer community.
“I think really implementing SafeZone training in the schools can really help.”
According to the Gay Alliance, a pro-gay organization based in Rochester, New York, “(The) SafeZone program was created to develop, enhance and maintain environments in workplaces, schools and other social settings that are culturally competent and supportive to LGBTQ individuals.”
“We really need people who can identify as straight allies and not tolerate us but accept us and stand up for us when our voices have been silenced,” Santistevan said.