DENVER — Advocates for gay, lesbian and transgender people identified six bills, introduced to the Colorado General Assembly, as discriminatory. All six are either led or co-sponsored by El Paso County lawmakers:
- Equality and Fairness in Youth Sports Act
- Colorado Natural Marriage and Adoption Act
- Protection of Minors from Mutilation and Sterilization
- Parent’s Bill of Rights
- Live and Let Live Act
- Fundamental Family Rights
Five of those bills are sponsored by Representative Shane Sandridge, a Republican from El Paso County, including a bill that would forbid transgender people, who identify as female, from participating in female sports from sixth through twelfth grade (20-1273), and one that would only allow marriage and adoption for male/female couples (20-1272).
“My opinion is not an attack against marriage between a homosexual couple, it’s just saying our goal needs to be a man and woman married. That’s the goal,” Rep. Sandridge said.
The “Colorado Natural Marriage and Adoption Act” would enforce an existing state law that defines a valid marriage between one man and one women, despite a 2015 ruling from the Supreme Court of the United States that found a federal law unconstitutional because it violated the fourteenth amendment by denying marriage rights to same-sex couples.
“If you look at the stats – a married couple between a man and a woman – the children are more successful, they’re more economically successful, the children are less [likely] to commit crimes,” said Sandridge.
However, there is no consensus, from the scientific community, on the effects a same-sex couple has on their children and many studies refute Sandridge’s claim.
Still another bill would make performing sex-change surgery on a minor a class three felony (20-1114), and another would forbid state government from infringing on a person or organization’s “religious liberty” (20-1033).
Rep. Tim Geitner, a republican from Falcon, sponsors a similar bill, “Fundamental Family Rights in Colorado” (20-1063), which would “define parental rights as the right to direct the upbringing, education, and care of a parent’s child.”
“This is the most aggressive slate of any-LGBTQ legislation introduced in the past decade,” said Daniel Ramos, Executive Director of One Colorado, an advocacy organization based in Denver.
The chairman of the General Assembly’s LGBTQ caucus, Democratic Representative Alex Valdez, says these laws step outside of the government’s role and interfere in people’s personal lives.
“What is so confusing to me is that, at the same time, we’re hearing these right-wing ideas about rolling back rights on folks, we’re also hearing ‘liberty’ and ‘freedom’ and having the ability to live the life you want to live,” he said.
Sandridge is the lone sponsor for the Equality and Fairness in Youth Sports Act. As part of the bill, if a participating student’s sex is disputed, the student would have to go through a physician to prove their reproductive anatomy and their levels of testosterone, along with an analysis of their chromosomes.
“This bill, and other similar legislation being introduced in states around the country, are meant to embolden the dehumanization of the transgender community,” Rep. Briannia Titone (D-Aurora) said Thursday. “We are setting trans youth up for a more difficult future and the possibility of depression or suicide,” she said. Titone is the first openly transgender woman to serve in the Colorado General Assembly.
But Sandridge says transgender females are ridiculed when they participate in youth sports and says the bill would protect them as well as their competition.
“There are transgender sports and I welcome that. We want to make sure they play in a fair manner just like biological girls and biological boys,” Sandridge said. “But what we’re seeing now, and this is happening across the country, biological boys can change their identity to a girl without taking any medications or surgeries,” he said. “[They can] enter a girls’ sports team, beat them, take away their championships, take away their scholarships. It’s just not fair.”
One Colorado and some democratic lawmakers also said Thursday the “Protection of Minors from Mutilation and Sterilization Bill” attacks our “most at-risk citizens”.
“We want people to make decisions about removing appendages, taking medications that give you breasts when you’re a male, we want you to make those decisions when you are an adult.
Among the opponents to that bill is Jenna, mother to Jude, who first came out as transgender at nine years old. “Jude’s Law,” passed in 2019, allows children, twelve years and older, to make decisions related to mental health, themselves.
“[The “Protection of Minors from Mutilation and Sterilization Bill”] was created out of fear and a pure lack of understanding,” Jenna said. “This bill, if passed, would literally be killing transgender youth all over our state. Shame on the people who support this bill and [are] masking the blatant discrimination of transgender youth by going after their doctors.”
Jenna requested her last name be omitted for the privacy of her daughter.
As for the “Live and Let Live” Act, opponents of the legislation say this bill is anything but, as it “seeks to roll back protections for LGBTQ Coloradans in the areas of adoption and foster care, healthcare, housing, employment, and public spaces on the basis of religious freedom”.
One Colorado says the bill opens the door for discrimination against the LGBTQ community, as they participate in necessary activities such as finding a job or a place to live.
“These pieces of legislation seek to roll back the progress we have made towards achieving equality,” Ramos said. “We have worked way too hard to go back.”
Proponents of the bill say since the legalization of same-sex marriage, religiously-backed adoption and fostering agencies have been forced to close in some states because they would not adopt to same-sex couples.
The bill points to the Colorado Masterpiece Cake Shop, the focal point of another Supreme Court Case, in which the owner refused to bake a cake for a same-sex couple because of his religious beliefs. The owner of the cake shop had to shut down a section of his business and was required to meet “constant” compliance reports.”
“In an equal society,” the bill states, “tolerance must be equal.”
One Colorado says the “Fundamental Family Rights Bill” and the “Parent’s Bill of Rights,” could put LGBTQ youth and teenagers in harm’s way if they are in homes that do not support their gender identity or sexual orientation.
“I have seen Jude thrive with the love and acceptance that we’ve given her and I can’t imagine not loving and accepting her,” Jenna said. “Whether you’re a child or adult or whoever, everyone wants the love and support from her family.”
But, Jenna cautioned, not everyone has that support.
Ramos says the bill would also negatively impact the mental health of LGBTQ children, by limiting their options for mental or physical healthcare, when they are trying to seek help without their parents’ consent.
“Fundamental Family Rights”, One Colorado said, would also endanger LBGTQ children by making it harder for social services or other government agencies to step in if relationships at home deteriorate.
“African American and Latino parents are more likely to have their parental rights taken away at a disproportionate rate,” the bill text says, “evidenced by the disproportionate number of African-American and Latino children in foster care in the United States.”
Something Rep. Sonya Jaquez Lewis (D-Lafayette) railed against on Thursday.
“As a Latina, I am disgusted that these bills are trying to target one segment of our Colorado community by taking away rights and putting us in a lower class of citizens,” she said.
All six bills were heard in the State, Veteran and Military House Committee Thursday afternoon. House Bill 1144 and House Bill 1063 died in committee.
Dozens of people were signed up to testify before the hearing took place.