Our 2017 legislative session wrap-up

How did LGBTQ Coloradans and their families fare in the 2017 legislative session?

Colorado’s 2017 legislative session ended yesterday, and with it came mixed results for many measures that impacted lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer Coloradans.

The Good

Updating Colorado’s bias-motivated harassment law:
House Bill 1188 was passed and signed into law this week. This bill adds physical or mental disability and sexual orientation (including transgender status) to the categories described in the harassment statute to make the statute consistent with Colorado’s existing law concerning bias-motivated crimes.

Continued funding of the Healthy Kids Colorado Survey:
The initial budget for the state removed funding for the Healthy Kids Colorado Survey (HKCS), which is a voluntary, anonymous survey that provides the state with vital information about the health and well-being of Colorado’s middle and high school students. Thankfully, the budget was amended to put funding back into the survey so that Colorado can understand and address challenges students across Colorado face, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer students.

Two religious exemption measures defeated:
Colorado saw two efforts to pass harmful religious exemption legislation in 2017. House Bill 1013 allowed businesses and individuals to claim that their religion gives them permission to exempt themselves from laws they don’t want to follow. A House committee promptly voted down the measure.

Late in the session, another religious exemption bill was introduced in the state senate. Senate Bill 283 would have allowed businesses and individuals to claim that any belief, including their religion, exempts themselves from non-discrimination laws they don’t want to follow. This legislation passed out of committee and then, thanks to a broad coalition of faith leaders, business leaders, and community organizations, was voted down on the senate floor with three republicans joining all the democrats in making a statement that religious exemption laws are bad for Colorado.

The Bad

Efforts to ban conversion therapy on LGBTQ minors and reduce barriers for transgender Coloradans fail to pass:
For the third year in a row, a bill that would have banned conversion therapy on LGBTQ minors (House Bill 1156) and another bill that would have made it less burdensome for transgender Coloradans to update the gender on their birth certificate (House Bill 1122) were sent by Republican senate leadership to the “kill” committee.

Senate fails to confirm LGBTQ Coloradan to the Civil Rights Commission:
For the first time in Governor John Hickenlooper’s administration, the state senate failed to confirm one of his appointments to a commission. Heidi Hess, an LGBTQ Coloradan from the Western Slope (who also happens to be a One Colorado staff person), was voted down on the state senate floor in a 17-18 party-line vote. For more info, read One Colorado’s statement on the vote and this Denver Post article.

Summary of the 2017 session:
We saw legislators in both parties come together in support of LGBTQ equality by ensuring continued funding for the Healthy Kids Colorado Survey, and adding sexual orientation, gender identity, and disability to our laws that protect people from bias-motivated harassment. One Colorado also led successful efforts to defeat TWO harmful religious exemption bills this session — one with bipartisan support in the Republican-controlled senate.

Unfortunately, that common ground did not extend to Republican Senate Leadership who — for the third year in a row — sent two important bills, which would have banned the harmful practice of conversion therapy and made it less burdensome for transgender Coloradans to update the gender on their birth certificate, to the Senate “kill” committee. And, in an unprecedented action, the senate voted on party lines to reject an LGBTQ Coloradan from the Western Slope, who happens to be a One Colorado staff person, to her appointment on the Colorado Civil Rights Commission — despite the fact she has been on the commission for 4 years and is its chair.

In the coming weeks, we’ll be releasing our LGBTQ equality scorecard, so you can see how your legislators fared when it came to supporting equality this session, but we know our work doesn’t stop when the session ends. We still have a lot of work to do to make sure voters across the state know where their elected officials stand on the issues that matter to them AND that we hold those legislators accountable through the next election. Help us win a pro-equality house and senate, and elect a pro-equality governor, in 2018 by becoming a monthly donor and volunteering with us.