Colorado’s out governor signs four pro-LGBTQ bills, ensuring it’s no longer “the Hate State”

Jared Polis
Photo: AP

The governor of Colorado signed four pro-LGBTQ bills into law yesterday, including one that will make Colorado the 11th state to ban the gay and transgender panic defenses.

Gov. Jared Polis (D), the first out gay governor in the U.S., signed the bills yesterday, saying that Colorado has “come a long way… since our days as the Hate State.”

Related: Jared Polis becomes the nation’s first openly gay governor

“We really went from a place where discrimination was legalized in the 1990s to where we are today, where Colorado is a leader,” said Polis, referring to Amendment 2, which banned local governments from passing laws that protected people from discrimination based on sexual orientation in 1992. Amendment 2 was challenged in court and led to an early LGBTQ Supreme Court victory in Romer v. Evans.

One of the bills he signed will ban the gay and transgender panic defenses. These criminal defenses are when a defendant argues that they were threatened – or just their sense of heterosexuality was threatened – when they learned that their victim was LGBTQ, so they “panicked” and attacked.

“When somebody is targeted because of their sexual orientation or gender, we want to make sure that that victim has a fair day in court, and this bill is going to help us ensure that there aren’t biased arguments or bigoted arguments in our courtrooms here in Colorado,” said Colorado prosecutor Amanda Gall, who supported the bill.

“This bill is going to make it possible to have safer and healthier communities for all in Colorado.”

“For me, what this bill really means is protecting black trans women, who are the most vulnerable of the communities we’re trying to protect here,” said state Rep. Brianna Titone (D) at the signing ceremony.

Another bill signed by Polis allows pharmacists to prescribe and dispense pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, which are medications taken to prevent the spread of HIV. The bill also requires insurers to pay for PrEP and allows patients to seek PrEP without prior authorization from their insurers.

Proponents of the bill said that it would increase the use of PrEP, especially among people of color and people who live in rural areas who face barriers to seeing doctors.

“All Coloradans deserve access to life-saving medical care, and this new law will ensure that the most systemically underserved groups have that access,” bill co-sponsor State Rep. Leslie Herod told the Colorado Times-Recorder. “HIV impacts the most vulnerable and disadvantaged in our state, often people of color who already face systemic health disparities and barriers to getting the care they need. This law will reduce the stigma of HIV and save lives.”

Another bill signed yesterday would create a fund using rebates the state receives from HIV/AIDS medical assistance programs.

Last, Polis signed a bill that makes it easier for minors to correct the gender markers on their state documents, including birth certificates and driver’s licenses.

In order to correct the gender listed on their documents, minors in Colorado used to have to show proof of “medical transition.” Now a statement from a medical or a mental health professional stating that someone identifies as a different gender is sufficient.

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