In 2019, advocates of LGBTQ rights in Colorado celebrated some successes. After years of failed attempts to pass two important bills, a receptive (i.e., Democrat-controlled) Legislature passed both of them all the way to the governor’s desk.
Jude’s Law, so named for a young transgender girl who advocated for the bill every year it was introduced, has made it easier for transgender and nonbinary Coloradans to change the gender on their birth certificates. Now, without a court order or proof of surgery, Colorado adults can self-select Male, Female, Intersex or X (for nonbinary identities) and receive a new birth certificate. Minors only need a note from a physician.
Last year’s second success: a ban on conversion therapy for minors, which makes it illegal for mental health practitioners to attempt to change a child’s gender identity or sexual orientation through therapy.
Now in 2020, we have the same receptive Legislature, but a whole new slew of causes to advocate for and against.
First, let’s talk about the bills that could harm the LGBTQ community if they were to pass. Once again, Rep. Stephen Humphrey, R-Severance, has sponsored the “Live and Let Live Act,” which has failed to pass the House for the past two years.
This bill would make it legal to use religion as a reason to discriminate against anyone, in almost every area of life: adoption, employment, education, housing and more, even though Colorado’s existing anti-discrimination laws already protect gay, lesbian and bisexual individuals in these areas. Thankfully, this bill’s chances of becoming law are slim.
Daniel Ramos, executive director of One Colorado, the state’s largest LGBTQ advocacy organization, said: “It is the most mean-spirited, anti-LGBTQ bill to be introduced in the Colorado Legislature in years. ”
Meanwhile, HB20-1063, Fundamental Family Rights in Colorado, would add a new section to Colorado law, asserting parents’ right to direct their children’s upbringing, education and care. According to Ramos: “This bill will make it more difficult for LGBTQ youth to be removed from abusive and non-affirming homes, which can cause long-term mental health issues.”
Most egregious of the potentially harmful legislation introduced in this session: HB20-1114, Protect Minors From Mutilation and Sterilization. This would make medical transition for minors illegal, which means the hormone treatments and gender-affirming surgeries that many trans people find life-saving would be criminalized until age 18. There are a lot of problems with this bill, including the inference that minors routinely undergo sex reassignment (which is not the case; minors are counseled to transition socially first, sometimes taking non-permanent puberty-blocking hormones, but seldom committing to irreversible surgery). Columnist Heidi Beedle will go into more detail about this bill next month.
But it isn’t all bad in the Legislature this year! Let’s end on some good news. HB20-1061, the HIV Infection Prevention Medications Bill, would allow Coloradans to get the HIV-prevention medication PrEP from a pharmacy without a prescription, and would remove barriers to insurance payments for the medication. While trans people as well as gay and bisexual men are at increased risk for HIV infection, this bill should sound like a good idea to everyone.
In a statement, Rep. Leslie Herod, D-Denver, said, “HIV disproportionately affects black, brown, and transgender communities, who already face disadvantages in accessing healthcare. This bill breaks down barriers and opens up HIV prevention medications to those who need it most.”
As of this writing, we anticipate the introduction of three more bills, all of which are on One Colorado’s agenda for this legislative session.
The organization hopes to 1) add gender identity to Colorado’s anti-discrimination law’s protected classes, which already include sexual orientation; 2) ban the gay and trans panic defense, a legal defense that excuses violent actions against LGBTQ people based on the surprise and fear of the attacker upon finding out that the person is LGBTQ; and 3) put resources in place to train foster families to best meet the needs of LGBTQ children.
Though the odds are good that Colorado’s Democrat-controlled Legislature will support these bills and reject any that promote discrimination, we’ll keep tabs on all of the above legislation.