Each session of the Colorado legislature spawns controversial bills -- like, for instance, Representative Timothy Dore's call for grants to Colorado counties to offset the impact of legal pot whether sales are allowed there or not. But this year has also spawned a slew of legislation that appears to target the LGBTQ community with potential discrimination -- although that's certainly not how sponsors portray them. One, about access to locker rooms by transgender people, died yesterday in committee, but two others -- including one by exorcism-doing, gay-slamming rep Gordon Klingenschmitt -- are on the rolls as well. Learn more about them below.
House Bill 15-1081, sponsored by Representative Kim Ransom, is entitled "A Bill for an Act Concerning the Protection of Physical Privacy in Sex-Segregated Locker Rooms." As CBS4 notes, a Colorado law passed in 2008 allows the transgendered to use locker rooms set aside for the gender with which they identify. But Ransom's proposal would have ended that, for reasons described in the text like so:
Children and young adults have natural and normal concerns about physical privacy when they are in various states of undress, and most wish for members of the opposite biological sex not to be present in those circumstances;
Parents have a reasonable expectation that places of public accommodation in this state that have sex-segregated locker rooms will not allow their minor children to be viewed in various states of undress by members of the opposite biological sex, nor allow their minor children to view members of the opposite biological sex in various states of undress; and
Allowing individuals to use locker rooms that are reserved for individuals of a different biological sex will create a significant potential for unsafe situations and for an invasion of privacy.
In committee, Ransom hyped the proposal by saying, "If a group of high school boys wants to storm the girls locker room during shower time after gym class, there is nothing the principal can do to stop them if they say the right words" -- a claim dismissed by Fairview High School Principal Don Strensrud. In his words, "The football team all saying, 'My gosh, we're all transgendered, we want to go into the girls locker room....' This is my fourteenth year at high school level -- that has never happened."
Added Representative Joe Salazar: "I don't mean any disrespect towards you, but I'm offended by this bill because this is rinse-and-repeat prejudice."
The measure's failure to get out of committee doesn't mean the LGBTQ community can rest easy. In a roundup of concerning legislation nationwide, the Washington Blade highlights House Bill 15-1037, sponsored by Representative Kevin Priola, even though the measure makes no specific mention of gays, lesbians, bisexuals or the transgendered.
The proposal's summary reads:
The bill prohibits a state institution of higher education (institution) from denying a religious student group a benefit that the institution provides to a nonreligious student group solely because the religious student group requires its leaders to adhere to the group's sincerely held religious beliefs or standards of conduct. These benefits include recognition, registration, use of institution facilities, use of institution channels of communication, and available institution funding sources.
What's wrong with that? Plenty, according to the Blade, which writes: "House Bill 1037 would prohibit public institutions of higher education from denying a religious student group a benefit solely based on the group's requirement that its leaders adhere to religious beliefs or a standard of conduct, which could enable discrimination against LGBT students."
And then there's House Bill 15-1161, fronted by Representative Gordon Klingenschmitt, whose anti-gay pronouncements didn't prevent him from getting elected in an ultra-conservative section of El Paso County. Here's an example courtesy of Right Wing Watch: "Gays, he says, have something inhuman and demonic inside of them, which is why he declares that teaching kids about gay marriage is mental rape and advocates that Christians should print anti-gay Bible verses on the backs of gay wedding photos."
No surprise, then, that Klingenschmitt was aghast when Colorado's Civil Rights Commission found that Masterpiece Cakeshop had discriminated against a gay couple by refusing to make them a wedding cake. Hence, a proposal with an incredibly wordy title: "A Bill for an Act Concerning the Protection of a Person's First Amendment Rights in the Enforcement of Public Accommodations Laws, and, in Connection Therewith, Protecting a Person's Right to Not Be Involuntarily Compelled in Speech, Acts of Artistic Expression, or Acts of Religious Expression."
Sound sweeping, vague and a sanction for discrimination by anyone who thinks homosexuality is an abomination in the eyes of God? If that's your take, you probably won't be swayed by this summary:
The bill specifies that neither the civil rights division, the civil rights commission, nor a court with jurisdiction to hear civil actions brought under the public accommodations laws may compel involuntary speech or acts of involuntary artistic expression or involuntary religious expression by a person when such speech or acts of artistic or religious expression would lead to that person directly or indirectly participating in, directly or indirectly supporting, or endorsing or impliedly endorsing an ideology, ceremony, creed, behavior, or practice with which the person does not agree.
Looks like it's going to be a helluva session -- and one that will require vigilance among those who want to protect LGBTQ rights.
Look below to see a CBS4 report about the transgender locker room bill, followed by all three bills discussed above.
Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.
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