Colorado Business Leaders, Faith Leaders, Law Enforcement, and Community Groups Laud Defeat of Broad Religious Exemption Bill in Colorado House Committee

IMG_5158January 25, 2017

Today, the State, Veterans, and Military Affairs Committee of the Colorado House of Representatives voted 6-3 to defeat House Bill 1013, a broad religious exemption proposal that would have allowed individuals and businesses to claim their religion gives them permission to ignore laws they don’t want to follow — including domestic violence, public safety, and non-discrimination laws.

During the committee hearing on this legislation, opponents of the bill testified to how religious freedom is already protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution, highlighted the negative effects that similar bills have had in Indiana and North Carolina, and explained that passing House Bill 1013 would send a message that Colorado isn’t open for business to everyone.

Before the hearing, a coalition of Colorado business owners, faith leaders, elected officials, members of Colorado’s LGBT caucus, and community groups held a press conference opposing the bill at the Colorado State Capitol. Speakers included: Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Kelly Brough, Denver District Attorney Beth McCann, Executive Director of Voices for Children CASA Nia Wassink, Rabbi Brian Immerman of Temple Emanuel, Pastor Michael Hidalgo of Denver Community Church, Pastor Jasper Peters of Trinity United Methodist Church, small business owner Tracy duCharme of Color Me Mine in Colorado Springs, and LGBT caucus members Representative Daneya Esgar and Senator Dominick Moreno.

Kelly Brough, President and CEO of Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce:

“There are high stakes with legislation like this. There are economic stakes – we saw what happened to Indiana in 2015 when it passed legislation similar to this; $60 million in lost tourism revenue and a mass exodus of business leaders who saw that law for what it is – discrimination,” said Kelly Brough, President and CEO of Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce. “House Bill 1013 legalizes discrimination. It condones injustice as long as it’s disguised as religious freedom. That’s not OK in Colorado and it frankly, shouldn’t be OK anywhere else.”

Denver District Attorney Beth McCann:

“The right to practice and profess your religion and faith is a fundamental right enshrined in the U.S. Constitution. As a private citizen and as a public official, I cherish that right. But that right cannot carelessly trump the rule of law,” said Denver District Attorney, Beth McCann. “The issue is simple, but proponents of this legislation seek to complicate and confuse: If you choose to provide public services, you cannot deny those services because you don’t like someone’s color of their skin, their national origin, their sex, or their sexual identity.”

Evangelical Pastor Michael Hidalgo, Denver Community Church:

“This proposed bill possesses the power to allow people of faith to pick and choose not only which laws they wish to obey, but who they will offer services to and do business with. This is in conflict with the law of Jesus, which we, as Christians, are called to obey. His law was simple. He said, “Love God and love others,” said Pastor Pablo Hidalgo of Denver Community Church.

Nia Wassink, Executive Director of Voices for Children CASA:

“These types of broad religious exemption laws can be used to justify and deter law enforcement or child protective services from being involved with allegations of child abuse,” said Executive Director of Voices for Children CASA Nia Wassink. “Legislation like House Bill 1013 is dangerous for children and dangerous for Colorado.”

Daniel Ramos, Executive Director of One Colorado:

“We are pleased the members of the Colorado House State, Veterans, and Military Affairs Committee defeated this effort to give anyone permission to pick and choose which laws to follow, including laws that ban discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer Coloradans and their families,” said Daniel Ramos, Executive Director of One Colorado, the state’s leading LGBTQ advocacy organization.”