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Denver City Council chamber to be named for late Councilwoman Cathy Reynolds

The late Cathy Reynolds, the first woman elected to the Denver City Council and the longest-serving member in the body’s history, will now be memorialized at city hall after the council on Monday voted unanimously to name its chamber after her.

“When we explored what made sense, naming the chambers was the perfect solution to honor Cathy Reynolds and it will be something that will last forever,” said Councilwoman Debbie Ortega, who along with Councilman Kevin Flynn sponsored the renaming bill on Monday. “This building was built to last forever and Cathy’s contributions were just enormous.”

Reynolds died in 2020 at the age of 75.

She was first woman voted into office in May 1975, a month before the Denver council’s second-ever woman member, Cathy Donahue, joined her after winning a runoff. Reynolds would remain on the council for the next 28 years and two weeks — the longest continuous tenure in city history — before newly adopted term limits ended her run, according to city research.

5-1980, MAY 2 1980Cathy Reynolds.Credit: Denver Post, Inc.

Her groundbreaking election and longevity were only part of why she is being honored. Her legislative achievements included lifting a zoning law that prevented unmarried couples from living together in certain neighborhoods and leading a ban on the sale of assault-style guns in the city in 1989, according to Ortega and Flynn’s presentation.

In 1990, she sponsored a gay rights law in Denver, something that contributed to state lawmakers passing a discriminatory countermeasure in 1992. In 1996, the U.S. Supreme Court would strike down the state law, a landmark victory for LGBTQ rights.

“This seems like a no-brainer today but in the ’80s and ’90s, gay rights were much more politically fraught. Cathy opened her door when many others would not,” said Tony Ogden, who worked with Reynolds on that 1990 bill and flew out from Portland, Ore., with his husband to be in the council chamber on Monday. “Not out of political gain but out of genuine conviction because it was the right thing to do for the people of Denver.”

Speakers Monday included a handful of former council members and city staffers that worked with Reynolds. Her husband, Rick Reynolds, and the couple’s two sons were there.

She was also remembered for her quick wit and willingness to mentor other council members. A permanent plaque with Reynolds’ name and a list of her accomplishments will be hung outside the chamber on the fourth floor of the Denver City and County Building.