Ten Terrible Legal Moments for Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual People in Colorado
Between legal weed and eco-friendly businesses, Colorado's enthusiasm for green rivals none. But break out the pink and rainbows and the state suddenly gets squeamish. Even before the word "homosexuality" was invented in the late nineteenth century (French philosopher Michel Foucault argued that it first appeared in 1870), the newly formed territory of Colorado had already ensured sodomy was against the law.
In the years since then, Colorado's legislature and voters have attempted to criminalize sodomy, cunnilingus, fellatio and sex toys. In 1992, voters passed a constitutional amendment blocking equal-opportunity legislation protecting sexual orientation; in 2006, voters banned same-sex marriage -- a last hurrah of anti-LGBT political crusaders. To see how far Colorado has come -- and where it still should go -- here's our list of the state's ten most hostile laws toward same-sex sexuality.
1860: Colorado adopted English Common Law, making sodomy (very loosely defined in those days) as punishable by death.
1861: As Colorado wrangled with whether or not it would be ruled under English law, the English changed their own laws, reducing the punishment for sodomy to ten years to life. Eventually, when pioneers in the Colorado territory formed their own legislature, they loosened the law, deciding sodomy deserved just one year to life and arguing that the crime occurred at the moment of penetration.
1885: Obscenity laws were passed banning instruments of self-pollution -- a la sex toys -- that could land a pleasure-seeker in jail for one year of hard labor. Continue to read about more terrible legal moments for gay, lesbian and bisexual people. Number 7:
1922: In Koontz v. People, the courts decided fellatio was not covered in the sodomy ban (though oral is nastier than anal, the judges declared).
1939: The state clarified that sodomy laws included fellatio and both warranted a maximum of fourteen years in the clink.
1953: The Psychopathic Offender Law categorized anal and oral enthusiasts in the same camp as child molesters and sex offenders. Continue to read about more terrible legal moments for gay, lesbian and bisexual people. Number 4:
1970: Cunnilingus was added as a practice that would get a person thrown onto the psychopathic offender list. Number 3:
Clela Rorex in 1975.
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1975: Boulder County Clerk and Recorder Clela Rorex risked her career by issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, a practice the state attorney general quickly shut down. She resigned from office shortly after.
1992: Colorado voters enacted Amendment 2, a constitutional amendment denying equal rights protection for homosexual and bisexual people.
2006: The voters of Colorado banned same-sex marriage. The law still sits on the books today; Attorney General John Suthers has defended it. The measure's constitutionality will likely be decided in federal court later this year.
Most of the above laws have been overturned, judged unconstitutional or stricken from the books. The same-sex marriage ban remains in place, and Colorado has been battling the issue all summer long. Just read our interviews with Attorney General John Suthers, Boulder County Clerk Hillary Hall and former Boulder County Clerk Clela Rorex to see how hot things can get.
Find me on Twitter at: @kyle_a_harris
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