Invoking the case of a Lakewood baker who refused to make a same-sex wedding cake and took the issue to the Supreme Court, some Republicans in the Colorado Legislature pushed bills to prevent adoption by LGBTQ couples and ban sex transition treatment for minors.
Taking up the conflict between same-sex marriage and religious liberty, one bill referenced Masterpiece Cakeshop owner Jack Phillips, who declined to make a custom cake for a same-sex couple in 2012 because of his religious beliefs.
The wide-ranging bill — titled the “Live and Let Live Act” — sought to prevent the state from punishing religious organizations and individuals for denying certain services to LGBTQ people. The bill would have protected actions ranging from declining to provide goods for a wedding, to making sex-based rules for employees' or students' clothes or access to restrooms.
“In an equal society, tolerance must be mutual,” the introduction to the bill read.
It was part of a slate of several measures that would deny services to LGBTQ Coloradans, all of which effectively had no chance of passing in the Democrat-controlled state House and Senate. Each of those bills was defeated on a 3-6 vote, according to a news blast by House Democrats in the early morning Feb. 14. The vote took place in committee, meaning the bills did not reach a full vote on the House floor.
State House Minority Leader Patrick Neville, R-Castle Rock, and state Rep. Kim Ransom, R-Acres Green, were among the "Live and Let Live" bill's sponsors.
A prominent LGBTQ advocacy organization dubbed the group of bills “the most aggressive slate of anti-LGBTQ legislation introduced in the past decade.”
“In the first few weeks of this legislative session, we have seen attacks on transgender Coloradans, same-sex parents, LGBTQ youth and the list goes on,” Daniel Ramos, executive director of One Colorado, said in a news release. “These bills do not represent who we are as Coloradans.”
Neville and a House GOP spokesman did not respond to requests for comment.
Meanwhile, a pair of bills pushed by local Denver metro legislators moved forward with bipartisan support. They sought to create a statewide mental health resource website and continue to help small businesses secure government contracts.
Here's a rundown of the bills. The legislative session — the roughly four-month period in which bills are passed — kicked off Jan. 8.
A bill called the “Protection of Minors from Mutilation and Sterilization Act” would have criminalized medical procedures for transgender individuals.
“A health care professional commits unlawful sex reassignment treatment of a minor if the person knowingly administers, dispenses, or prescribes a drug or hormone or orders or performs a surgical procedure for the purpose of facilitating sex reassignment of a minor,” the bill's summary read.
Those procedures would have qualified as a class 3 felony under the bill, which results in up to 12 years in prison, a $750,000 fine or both.
House Bill 20-1114 was voted down in the State, Veterans, and Military Affairs Committee. That body is sometimes called the "kill committee,” where the majority party often sends bills it intends to dispense with early to ensure they don't meet a full vote of all members on the House floor.
Under another bill, county clerks could issue marriage licenses and certificates only if the marriage would be between one woman and one man.
That rule would be enforced “regardless of judicial decisions to the contrary,” the bill said, an apparent reference to the Supreme Court's 2015 ruling that upheld a right to same-sex marriage.
The bill also sought to bar adoption by couples that do not consist of one man and one woman.
“Centuries of history, tradition, and morality support the fact that natural marriage is between one man and one woman,” the bill's legislative declaration, or opening section, read.
House Bill 20-1272, or the “Colorado Natural Marriage and Adoption Act,” was also voted down in the State, Veterans, and Military Affairs Committee.
A bipartisan bill seeks to create a website with information and internet links to behavioral health care services in each region of the state, according to the Legislature's site.
The website would include information about Colorado SEE ME — a state ad campaign about support for mental health conditions and substance abuse — along with the national suicide prevention hotline and demographic-specific information about behavioral care providers in each region.
State Rep. Brianna Titone, D-Arvada, is a top sponsor of House Bill 20-1113, which moved forward on Feb. 5 to the Appropriations Committee.
Currently, the state works with a nonprofit to help small businesses obtain government contracts at the local, state and federal levels — including small businesses owned by women, minorities and veterans.
A bill sponsored by state Rep. Tom Sullivan, a Centennial Democrat, would renew the contract for up to five years, according to the Legislature's website. The current six-year contract between the state and the nonprofit will expire in September.
The state Legislature, under current law, does not contribute more than $200,000 to the program. The bill allows the Legislature to increase its contribution as long as the nonprofit contributes a 100% match by soliciting gifts, grants, and donations.
House Bill 20-1116 has bipartisan sponsorship and moved forward Feb. 11 to the Appropriations Committee.
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