Metro Weekly

Colorado’s openly gay governor signs conversion therapy ban and birth certificate bill

Jared Polis approves pro-equality legislation seeking to make LGBTQ people's lives easier

Jared Polis – Photo: Facebook.

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis (D) has signed a pair of LGBTQ bills into law: one prohibiting conversion therapy on minors, and another allowing transgender Coloradans to more easily change the gender marker on their birth certificates.

Polis, elected last year to become America’s first openly gay governor, signed the bills into effect on Friday in order to preserve the health and safety of LGBTQ youth in the state.

Both bills were first introduced in 2015, when the state legislature was controlled by Republicans, but neither received a hearing. This year, however, under Democratic control, both bills passed with strong bipartisan support.

The first bill would prohibit state-licensed mental health practitioners from attempting to change the sexual orientation or gender identity of LGBTQ youth.

Any mental health care provider who engages in the therapy could be subject to disciplinary action for unprofessional conduct, as determined by the appropriate licensing board.

By signing the conversion therapy measure into law, Polis makes Colorado the 18th state in the country to protect minors from conversion therapy.

Maine became the 17th state to pass a conversion therapy ban earlier this week, when Gov. Janet Mills (D) signed a bill into law.

Similar bans have also passed in the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and a number of counties or cities in Arizona, Florida, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Washington, and Wisconsin.

The Trevor Project, the world’s largest suicide prevention organization for LGBTQ youth, praised Polis’s decision to sign the bill, noting that the organization’s “50 Bills, 50 States” campaign, which has partnered with the Human Rights Campaign, National Center for Lesbian Rights, One Colorado, and GLAD, has set a goal of passing bans on conversion therapy in every state.

“Today, we witnessed the nation’s first openly gay man elected governor, Gov. Jared Polis, sign into law two pro-equality pieces of legislation, including a bill that protects LGBTQ youth in the state from the dangerous, debunked practice of so-called ‘conversion therapy,'” HRC President Chad Griffin said in a statement. “Governor Polis has been a trailblazing champion for LGBTQ rights and representation, both in Colorado and for LGBTQ people across the nation. While there is much work to be done to ensure that all of us are treated equally under the law, this is a great day for progress — for Colorado and for our community.”

A 2018 study found that the rate of attempted suicide by LGBTQ youth whose parents tried to change their sexual orientation was more than double the rate of LGBTQ youth who reported no such attempts.

For LGBTQ young people who reported both home-based efforts to change their sexual orientation by parents and efforts by therapists or religious leaders, the rate was three times higher.

The second bill, known as “Jude’s Law,” allows transgender Coloradans to update the gender marker on their birth certificate to match their gender identity — whether male, female, or nonbinary — without having to undergo surgery or obtain a doctor’s note or court order.

Instead of an amended birth certificate, a person will now obtain a new birth certificate with the correct gender marker, which will help protect their privacy when they are forced to provide their birth certificate for identification purposes.

The bill also removes a provision requiring people undergoing a name change as part of a gender transition to give public notice by having their name and personal information published in a newspaper of record.

“This was a historic session for LGBTQ Coloradans and their families. With legislation that impacts youth, transgender, and non-binary Coloradans, One Colorado championed bills for some of the most vulnerable in our community to improve the everyday lives of LGBTQ Coloradans,” Daniel Ramos, the executive director of One Colorado, said in a statement.

“The strong bipartisan support of both of these bills further demonstrates that LGBTQ equality should be a nonpartisan issue, and we applaud the Republicans who stood with our community,” added Ramos.  Colorado will continue to make history as our country’s first openly gay Governor, Jared Polis, signs our pro-equality agenda into law to send a strong message that Colorado is a state that is open to all.”

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