Colorado is one pen stroke away from abolishing Columbus Day.
The state legislature gave final passage Tuesday to a bill that would replace Columbus Day with a new state holiday, on the first Monday of October, in honor of Frances Xavier Cabrini.
It is believed that the proposed Cabrini Day would be the first paid state holiday recognizing a woman anywhere in this country.
The bill now just need’s the governor’s signature to become law. His staff did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but he is not expected to oppose the bill.
Lead bill sponsor Adrienne Benavidez, D-Commerce City, has been trying for years to abolish Columbus Day, which she calls “a festering sore.” Previous failed bills proposed to replace with the day with Colorado Day, Indigenous Peoples’ Day or an Election Day holiday, but those and other concepts were met with bipartisan resistance and with outrage from some in Italian Americans who take pride in Columbus Day.
Honoring Cabrini — an Italian American and the patron saint of immigrants — was a compromise palatable to Benavidez, her fellow Democrats and to many of those who’ve opposed previous bills.
Benavidez called Cabrini, who unlike Columbus has direct ties to Colorado, a “great humanitarian” and she said Monday she is “elated” that the bill has passed.
“The continuation of a racist holiday hurts people, and this says that we as a state no longer want to be party to that,” she said.
Not a single Republican voted for this bill in either the House or Senate. Many of them complained that the bill amounted to a rewrite of history. Others said that all people, Columbus included, have darker sides to their stories, and that they should not be punished for that. State Rep. Richard Holtorf, R-Akron, said on the House floor last month that the indigenous people Columbus encountered weren’t always nice or peaceful people — a remark that inspired disbelieving laughs from onlooking Democrats.
Benavidez refuted the criticism Monday.
“It’s not a rewrite of history at all,” she said. “It’s that we recognize that Columbus should not be revered.”