The Sad Story of Don and Dee Coram

UPDATE: FOX 31’s Eli Stokols:

Rep. Don Coram, who cast the deciding vote Monday to kill the revived civil unions bill during this week’s special legislative session, told FOX 31 Denver Wednesday that he stands behind his vote, despite criticism from his gay son…

“If you’re going to lead, you need to sometimes set aside your personal preferences and do what you were sent here to do,” Coram continued. “This situation in my district is very, very clear from the calls I had coming in that this was an issue my district didn’t support.”

But some Democrats have taken issue with his “voting my district” defense, noting that Sen. Ellen Roberts, R-Durango, who represents many of the same constituents as Coram, voted in favor of civil unions when it cleared the Senate near the end of the regular legislative session.


9NEWS’ Kevin Torres reports, though most following the story of the killing of civil unions legislation at the hands of Colorado House Republicans are already well aware of this sidebar:

When a Republican representative from Montrose voted against the bill to legalize civil unions for same-sex couples on Monday evening, many people dubbed him the “man who killed it.” After his vote, Rep. Don Coram acknowledged he has a gay son, which prompted his son to question his father’s decision…

For most of his life, Dee Coram ignored his father’s politics and kept his distance. But when the civil unions bill popped up, Dee Coram decided to have a heart-to-heart with his father.

“He did say at that time if it goes to the floor, I will vote no. But at that time his stance was the committee should send it and let the House vote on it,” Dee Coram said… [Pols emphasis]

“He was given an opportunity here to actually be a leader and I guess he didn’t take that leadership role. It’s disappointing to see something like this that he said should have gone to a house floor for a vote. Essentially, he prevented that from happening,” Dee Coram said.

The story from 9NEWS’ Kevin Torres makes it clear that Rep. Don Coram and his openly gay son Dee Coram are still close even after this vote, and that Dee never expected his father to be a “yes” vote on final passage of civil unions. We can see where, under less politically volatile circumstances, Rep. Coram might indeed have agreed with his son that the bill deserved a vote in the full House. But with the issue exploding in the face of Republican House leadership and national media coverage, “politically volatile” became a quaint understatement.

To us, this story once again illustrates the terrible pressure that was put on “reliable” Republicans by their leadership to fall in line and ensure that the civil unions bill died by whatever means necessary. After what happened at the end of the regular session, there was no need for niceties–it’s not like Republicans could look any worse. There’s little question GOP Speaker Frank McNulty had conferred with the Republican members of the House State Affairs Committee prior to assigning the bill there, to ensure that they wouldn’t give him any surprises like Rep. B.J. Nikkel did during the regular session. The reason one is appointed to the State Affairs Committee to begin with is that leadership is confident of their loyalty.

So when the time came, Rep. Coram “did his duty”–when in different circumstances, we can’t help but think in his defense, he might have acted differently? Obviously we don’t know he would have, but the story as told by his son obligates us to leave a small window of doubt.

And if that’s how it all went down, you have to feel kind of sorry for both of them.

41 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. nancycronk says:

    a politician would rather get re-elected than vote his conscience.

    Who is running against Coram in HD58 this year? Wes Perrin ran in 2010 before redistricting, but I think part of the old 58 became 59, right? Can someone get us up to date on what the Dems are doing there? Thanks.

  2. rocco says:

    Coram definitely was on the spot on this one.

    A real case of being in the wrong job at the wrong time if he wanted to stay in the shadows.

    I don’t for a minute think Coram’s “sense of right and wrong” or his “conscience” had anything to do with his vote.

    Common sense dictates that he must know the legislative process, as a member of the Legislature, well enough to know that the Speaker had subverted and contorted the process, and that, as a member, it was his moral responsibility to stand tall and right the ship. A yes vote would have brought the vote to the entire body, salvaging Colorado’s democratic process and its’ reputation.

    Then he could have voted no in the big show.

    He’d have squared things with his son. He’d have done the right thing.

    Instead, he heard the warnings of his lesser angels.

    Coram would have been vilified by the wing nuts that have saturated the republican party, those wealthy lunatics from the various “evangelical” entities, the conservative talk show jabbers like Brown, Boyles, Caplis, and those wingnuts on 710.

    And he’d be shunned from the radical fringe element of red society.

    But he could have been known as a man of integrity. Strength. Fairness. In short, an adult that does the right thing.

    A funny thing about pressure.

    Some people focus.

    Some people, like Don Coram, fold.

    Now he’ll live the rest of his life knowing he’s on the bad end of the saying “A coward dies a thousand deaths, a hero dies but once”.    

  3. Arvadonian says:

    His Dad chose loyalty to Frank McNulty over loyalty to his son.  Politics is thicker than blood….

  4. Early Worm says:

    Don Coram’s vote was wrong, but I think his son would have been better served voicing his objections (and disappointments) in a private setting, not in the media. Calling out his father in the media serves only one purpose and that purpose is not persuasion.  

    • Arvadonian says:

      his son in the debate with his statement before his vote.  He made his son part of the story.  It was almost as if he was using his son as a type of shield, a “some of my best friends are….., so I’m not a bigot.”

      • Gilpin Guy says:

        What the son should have said was that his dad voted to keep him a second class citizen who will continue to be denied their rights to the pursuit of happiness.  It was a vote to continue to maintain two classes of citizens in America.

    • ArapaGOP says:

      This is a son politicizing a debate with his father. He should have kept it private, or at least more respectful than this.

      I’ll bet Don Coram is used to this though.

      • Aristotle says:

        then your first sentence is a flat out lie. Dad politicized it, not son.

      • Canines says:

        perhaps you can point out those other mentions in the press about their disagreements.  

      • Arvadonian says:

        shared by Dee and Don Coram is that of constituent and representative.  As such Dee Coram has every right to petition his representative in the legislature to vote on issues of import to him and to report on how those conversations have gone.  What you are suggesting is that Rep. Coram’s constituent has no right to express areas of disagreement with his representative in government.

    • ProgressiveCowgirl says:

      99% of the time, family disputes should be kept private.

      But for how many decades have “family values” politicians asked their own gay family members to sit down, shut up, and get comfortable under the rug? How many “family values” politicians have, as Coram did, mentioned their gay family members even as they vote to deny them any semblance of equality?

      Being gay should not mean being mute just because your father is in politics. Dee is an adult. Don determined that Dee’s rights weren’t worth sacrificing his standing with McNulty and his party. Dee determined that his relationship with Don was not worth another year of silence as his father continued to preserve a system in which Dee will live, choose a partner, become a parent, and die as a second-class citizen without the rights and privileges Don had when marrying and raising Dee.

      Don decided that Dee wasn’t worth sacrificing his position for.

      Dee decided that Don wasn’t worth sacrificing his voice for.

      It’s sad, hard, and tragic, but I cannot condemn Dee for refusing to be another “inconvenient gay” silenced for a right-wing, anti-gay politician’s career.

      • ajb says:

        One is a politician.

        The other is a job creator.

        Who are ya gonna trust?

      • Early Worm says:

        I simply disagree with his actions. Dee did not have to sacrifice his voice. He could and should state his position in favor of civil unions. That is not the same this as publicly stating words to the effect, my dad is a coward. He is entitled to his opinion about his father, but publicly venting it accomplishes nothing productive. His relationship with his dad his is own, but I think a statement of “my father and I strongly disagree on this issue” would have been more appropriate.  

        • ProgressiveCowgirl says:

          This is probably because we each filter things through our own experiences — so for me, in Dee’s voice and body language I hear and see all the gay friends I’ve seen asked to “just” do this or that little thing to avoid their sexuality inconveniencing the family.

          Can’t you just come to the wedding with a female friend instead of with Jake, so you don’t distract from the bride’s day?

          Can’t you just tell your neighbors that you live with your “sister,” so you don’t become a subject for gossip?

          Can’t you just wear a suit for the funeral, just this once, and go by John, instead of having to explain that you’re Sally now?

          Can’t you just marry a man and give me grandchildren? You’re bisexual anyway, so why don’t you pick the one society will accept?

          Can’t you act a little more manly at my company picnic, so my boss doesn’t notice anything “off” about you?

          So many GBLTQI people hear this all their lives:

          “It’s not that I don’t support you. Of course I love you, but why can’t you just….?”

          I feel so much for Dee. I see in him a guy who has, as the son of a Republican politician, heard a lot of can’t-you-just in his lifetime. He’s probably obeyed a lot of the can’t-you-justs. And after years of it, he had one for his father: Can’t you just lead the way and let the full House vote?

          Instead of a “yes,” he got a “no,” and presumably another implied can’t-you-just. “Can’t you just let this one go? Can’t you just stay away from the media? Can’t you just hang up when they call?”

          This time, he couldn’t just, and in his position I hope I’d be strong enough to say, “No, I can’t, not this time,” too.

          Family is what you’re born with AND what you make it. Don’s vote required Dee to choose between loyalty to the family he was born with, and the right to make a family of his own choosing, just like every heterosexual person has the legal right to do. I understand why you feel so strongly that he shouldn’t have aired the dirty laundry with the family member he was born to, but for me it’s just as important that he be loyal to the family he desires to create for himself.

          • Early Worm says:

            My perspective is as a son and as a father. Though I can try to empathize, I do not have any personal experience being truly discriminated against or marginalized. I have never had to choose between my family and my true self. Hopefully despite this most recent disagreement, Don and Dee will not have to either.

          • rocco says:

            And it’s important to hammer home that  Coram took what looked at the time like the easiest way out, only to have to live with the shame of the coward’s rout, for the rest of his life.

            Dee did nothing wrong.

            I do think this issue will be back next year, but they won’t be voting on Civil Unions then.

            That Democratic majority’s going to be voting on the floor for same sex marraige.

            I hope Dee Coram’s in the gallery when it passes.

  5. gmt1701 says:

    I would like to introduce myself, my name is Greg Thornton and I’m the Democratic candidate for House District 58.

    Our official roll-out is on the 1st of June and we have been very quickly gearing up.

    My opponent, Mr. Coram unfortunately voted against this measure as you already know. It is absolutely disappointing that currently District 58 has a person more interested in scoring political points and being re-elected than standing up for civil rights for Coloradans. Mr. Coram states that he must obey the wishes of his constituency. This is misguided as from recent polling, most people in Colorado support civil unions and in fact around 56% of Republican votes do. Clearly Mr. Coram is more interested in towing a political view out of step with most of Colorado. We need a representative that will stand up for the rights of all people in their district and look at issues like this as an opportunity to move Colorado forward and not backwards.

    Like I said our campaign is gearing up quickly and our website will be up very soon. But we are currently accepting donations.

    Donations made payable to “The Committee to Elect Greg Thornton” can be sent to my treasurer: Jan Touslee  1146 South 2nd Ave. Montrose, CO 81401

    Thank you for your time.


  6. Ralphie says:

    I have posted Coram’s speech from Monday’s committee meeting.

    Not that his microphone wasn’t working for the first 10 seconds, so he’s kind of buried.

    If your browser doesn’t support streaming with .m3u files, you can download the audio clip here:


    • ProgressiveCowgirl says:

      Additionally, although we can’t quote the Denver paper, if an interested party searches their website for “Coram,” they will find two separate articles by Jessica Fender that mention Coram’s references to his gay son during committee deliberations.

  7. smellykat says:

    Coram is a really lovely man who I am sure is struggling mightily. Coram’s wife is his aide and she could be seen crying during the hearing. This has been very difficult for all of them, and while I strongly disagree with the position that Coram took, I hope that this will be one step in moving him in a different direction in the future, and next time telling the McNulty’s and Stephens’ of the world along with bigoted constituents, that he will do the right thing.  

    • DavidThi808 says:

      What really matters is what one does, not what one hopes to do next time.

    • ProgressiveCowgirl says:

      I’m sure he’s a really lovely man. A lot of these social-issues Republicans are. But a man who campaigns on family values, then fails to value his family, is not worthy of continuing to hold public office. He has a safe seat and could probably win a primary, so it’s really only his loyalty to McNulty that could possibly have dictated this vote. To me, that’s not enough to justify or forgive denying equality to his own son.

      I hope this does provoke some soul-searching, but I’ll see him as a rather poor father deserving of every bit of Dee’s ire until and unless it also provokes both public and private apologies. Dee deserves an apology for bringing him up while voting to keep him a second-class citizen, and all of Colorado deserves an apology for the simple wrongness of Coram’s vote.

      I believe you, and Dee, that Don is “almost there” in terms of supporting equality. But almost ain’t gonna cut it for the couples who suffer from continued inequality while legislators head home to their districts to fundraise and campaign. If I were a gay woman unable to make medical decisions for my partner in the event of an emergency, it would be little consolation to me that Coram found his vote “difficult” or that the wife he can make medical decisions for shed tears.

    • Arvadonian says:

      of “lovely men” who did nothing to stand against bigotry and hatred.  It takes a very special type of “lovely man” to side with the bigots against their own flesh and blood though.  As to his wife crying, she had reason to cry.  Her husband, her son’s father, was siding with the bullies who were legislatively bashing her son.  If she had any self-respect she’d resign her position with her gay bashing husband.

      • rocco says:

        In the end, he had feet of clay.

        In the biggest moment of his legislative carreer, he was a coward.

        Coram’s wife will never look at him the same way, because, as you said, he actually sided with the bullies, against her son.

        She can’t change what happened, she can only determine what happens next.

        Of course, we’re assuming she has more integrity than he.

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