UPDATE: Thanks to the hard work of committed citizens, both of these bills were defeated in committee. Thank you Citizens Project community!
On February 9th, Citizens Project staff participated in One Colorado’s LGBT Lobby Day, an awareness and action day centered on upcoming legislation in Colorado’s statehouse. Over 200 attendees came out to join the fight against two “Right to Discriminate” bills and to show support for the Birth Certificate Modernization Bill. The morning was beautiful and productive, beginning with Governor Hickenlooper joining the concerned citizens on the capitol steps to voice support and encouragement for equality and diversity in Colorado.
Following close on the heels of the defeat of HB 15-1081, the “Locker Room” bill, activists rallied to express equal disapproval of two upcoming bills that would potentially open the door for any business to discriminate against anyone religious reasons. HB 15-1161 and HB 15-1171 contain broad language that would potentially allow pharmacists, guidance counselors, law enforcement officers, restaurants, and any other private business to refuse service for religious reasons, including but not limited to sexual orientation, race, gender. HB 1161 Sponsor, Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt told the concerned group that anyone who proposed that the bill would allow such open-season discrimination had not actually read the bill, and maintained that he is trying to protect the freedom of artistic expression. Legal analysts from One Colorado disagree. While seemingly neutral, this bill will actually prevent the civil rights commission from investigating or enforcing anti-discrimination laws – it will essentially allow individuals and businesses to discriminate based on sexual orientation, race, or any reason, provided they do so in the name of free speech. The citizen lobbyists were at the capitol building to ensure as many legislators as possible are aware of the potential for abuse written into these bills.
Another piece of legislation being proposed would modernize the Colorado statues regarding amendment of birth certificates and legal identity documents. Currently in order to change one’s gender on a Colorado birth certificate a person must both surgically alter themselves AND appear before a judge in order to obtain an order for the amendment. Many documents take information directly from a person’s birth certificate and transgender persons can be denied housing, employment and even the opportunity to vote. The current process to correct information is unnecessarily burdensome and results in denial of equal protection and opportunity. This modernization bill would align Colorado’s process with that of the federal government, requiring only a medical statement from a person’s healthcare provider, thereby protecting a transgender person’s privacy and integrity, and eliminating the financial, physical, and emotional burden of surgery as well.
Citizens Project is proud to partner with One Colorado in fostering civic engagement across the state and look forward to encouraging equal treatment and protection for all of the citizens of Colorado. Be sure to contact the members of the House State, Veterans, and Military Affairs Committee which is currently deliberating HB 15-1161 to voice your opposition.