Sens. Chris Hansen and Angela Williams

Sens. Chris Hansen and Angela Williams argue for the repeal of Columbus Day on the floor of the state Senate on Monday, March 9, 2020.

The Colorado Senate moved the end of Columbus Day in Colorado one step closer to reality with a voice vote Monday.

House Bill 1031 would replace the holiday named for a controversial historical figure who never visited Colorado, or anywhere in the U.S., for that matter. 

The new holiday would be Frances Xavier Cabrini Day on the first Monday each October. Colorado would become the first state with a paid holiday honoring a woman.

"Frances Xavier Cabrini was a humanitarian champion of immigrants and children in the United States," the bill states. "Cabrini first came to Colorado in 1902. In 1905, she opened the Queen of Heaven Orphanage for girls in a residence in north Denver."

A naturalized citizen, she died in 1917. Mother Cabrini was canonized by Pope Pius XII in 1946, the first U.S. citizen to be named a saint.

Columbus Day honors an internationally famed voyager revered especially by Americans of Italian descent. To some, particularly of American Indian descent, Columbus represents a European conquest responsible for the deaths of aboriginal people.

Cities across the country, including Denver, have banned the holiday, and attempts at the statehouse to do the same have failed annually.

The bill that passed on a voice vote in the Senate on Monday still must pass a roll call vote there. The measure passed the House on Feb. 19 with a 37-26 vote, as a handful of Democrats voted with Republicans.

Hansen told the Senate on Monday that the bill is the product of years of work and compromise on both sides "by hundreds of dedicated people around this state."

He said Mother Cabrini represents the best of what Colorado is.

"This is the grand compromise," Williams explained. "It's been talked about for years." 

Sen. Larry Crowder, a Republican from Alamosa, called the bill a 21st century spin on world history and an attempt to separate Catholics and Italians from Columbus.

"We have taken away what we think is history and we've corrupted it," he said.

Sen. Bob Gardner, a Republican from Colorado Springs, said he didn't see the point, either, since it'll still be Columbus Day on the federal calendar.

"We're going to move the baggage around on this one, but it's still going to Columbus Day by any other day," he said.   

Sen. Vicki Marble, a Republican from Fort Collins, noted that the bill is not bipartisan, with only Democrats supporting it so far.

"This is a very one-sided attempt to cast a moral judgment with negative connotations on historical events that happened over 500 years ago," she said. "This is the way many people see it and wish it would be just laid to rest."

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