May 31, 2019 at 12:24 pm EDT | by Chris Johnson
Gov. Polis signs trans birth certificate bill, ban on ‘ex-gay’ therapy
Jared Polis, gay news, Washington Blade
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis has signed into law pro-LGBT measures. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

With great fanfare in a signing ceremony, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis — the first openly gay man elected governor in the United States — signed into law on Friday two pieces of pro-LGBT legislation.

One measure bans widely discredited “ex-gay” conversion therapy for youth, the other, known as Jude’s Law, streamlines the process by which transgender people can change their gender marker on their birth certificates.

Speaking in front of a group of LGBT supporters, Polis remarked on the progress his state has made on LGBT rights since it enacted Amendment 2 in 1992, anti-gay law against LGBT city non-discrimination ordinances that was later struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in Romer v. Evans.

“In just 27 years, we’ve had a remarkable transformation from when we were derogatorily called the ‘hate states’ to a place where the rights of all Coloradans are respected, where we have a strong LGBTQ caucus in our state legislature, where we move forward with valued contributions that every Coloradan makes regardless of their race, regardless of their gender, regardless of their orientation, regardless of their gender identity,” Polis said.

HB19-1129, the measure against “ex-gay” therapy, prohibits a state-licensed mental health care provider from engaging in the practice on a patient under age 18. A physician or mental health care provider who violates this law engages in unprofessional conduct under the applicable professional licensing board.

The newly enacted law makes Colorado becomes the 18th state to ban the practice. Just this week, Maine Gov. Janet Mills signed into law a similar measure against “ex-gay” therapy for youth.

Other jurisdictions that have enacted similar laws are Connecticut, California, Delaware, Nevada, New Jersey, the District of Columbia, Oregon, Illinois, Vermont, New Mexico, Rhode Island, Washington State, Maryland, Hawaii, New Hampshire and Massachusetts. (Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló signed an executive order against conversion therapy after the legislature failed to pass legislation against it.)

Conversion therapy aimed at changing an individual’s sexual orientation or transgender status is considered ineffectual at best and harmful at worst. Major medical and psychological institutions — including American Psychological Association, the World Health Organization, the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics — widely reject the practice.

The other measure, Jude’s Law, aims to cut through the red tape for transgender people in Colorado trying to update the gender markers on their birth certificate consistent with their gender identity. Transgender people in Colorado are now able to update their gender on their birth certificate to M, F, or X without a surgery, a doctor’s note, or court order.

Other states have enacted birth certificates laws for transgender people, but Colorado is the third state in the country — after California and Oregon — to allow for have non-binary gender options for both driver’s licenses and birth certificates.

Daniel Ramos, executive director of One Colorado, said in a statement the enactment of the pro-LGBT bills made for “a historic session for LGBTQ Coloradans and their families” in the state legislature.

“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,” Ramos said. “Colorado will continue to make history as our country’s first openly gay Gov. Jared Polis, signs our pro-equality agenda into law to send a strong message that Colorado is a state that is open to all.”

Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, also hailed Polis in a statement for signing the pro-LGBT meaures into law.

“Gov. Polis has been a trailblazing champion for LGBTQ rights and representation, both in Colorado and for LGBTQ people across the nation,” Griffin said. “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.”

Polis isn’t the first openly LGBT governor to sign into law a ban on conversion therapy or transgender birth certificate legislation. In 2015, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, who’s bisexual, signed into law legislation prohibiting the practice in the Beaver State. In 2017, Brown signed into law a measure a transgender equity bill for birth certificates.

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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