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The Center on Colfax

Tea Schook


A young Tea Schook, the first openly gay candidate for governor in Colorado.

Theresa “Tea” Schook is a lesbian activist working in Colorado. Born in Michigan, she moved to Denver in 1975. Her first job in Denver was in a law office “before becoming the editor of Quest, a gay monthly magazine.” In 1990, while she was working as the director of the Colorado Gay and Lesbian Task Force, Schook announced her candidacy for governor of Colorado. She ran on a platform of “guaranteed civil rights for all Coloradoans... a strong commitment to the environment and education,” along with “increased funding for AIDS treatment and education.” As a Democrat, Schook would challenge Governor Roy Romer at the Democratic Convention. Tea had a long-standing history in Colorado’s LGBTQ activism scene. She was a co-chair of “an Equal Protection Ordinance Coalition, which [sought] a gay rights ordinance in Denver and was a founding member of ACT-UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power).”

A few months after announcing her candidacy, Schook withdrew from the race before getting to the convention. She had secured certain commitments from Romer, such as a promise that he would “be more aggressive on gay and lesbian issues if re-elected.” Romer also wanted to prevent discrimination based on sexual orientation, so Schook met with members of his staff to draft an executive order. This possibly came out of a meeting on June 1, 1990, where Romer and Schook discussed not just issues generally facing the State of Colorado but also “issues of primary importance to the gay and lesbian community of Colorado.” The two had been meeting regularly while on the campaign trail, and Romer said he not only supported having “a person to work as liaison to the gay and lesbian community,” but agreed with the idea that more funding needed to be put towards AIDS research and treatment. Romer made good on at least some of his promises after winning the election, signing an executive order to ban discrimination in state employment on the basis of sexual orientation. Schook was the first openly gay person to run for public office in Colorado.