For this Pride Month, it seems appropriate to delve into the evolution Colorado has undergone over the last few decades from what gay author Armistead Maupin once called “the South Africa of the US for gays” into a national leader on safeguarding and protecting LGBTQ+ rights. This year in particular was a landmark year for LGBTQ+-friendly public policy in the Centennial State.
In a relatively short amount of time, Colorado has performed a complete 180 on LGBTQ+ rights. In 1992, for example, Colorado voters approved Amendment 2, which actually prohibited the state from enacting laws protecting the LGBTQ+ community from discrimination. Colorado’s electoral college votes went to George W. Bush in both of his presidential campaigns, including 2004, which was largely defined by anti-gay sentiment (Ken Mehlman, manager of Bush’s 2004 campaign, later came out as gay in 2010). The Los Angeles Times once referred to Colorado Springs – known for its socially conservative megachurch culture – as “the evangelical capital” of the US.
But over the last decade or so, Coloradans’ attitude toward LGBTQ+ rights has become decisively more accepting. Same-sex marriage became legal in Colorado after the 2014 Kitchen v. Herbert decision in the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, which includes Colorado, and of course, the 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges decision made same-sex marriage legal across the country. In 2018, Coloradans elected former Congressman Jared Polis as America’s first openly gay governor, and re-elected him last year. But the 2023 legislative session in particular cements Colorado as a nationwide leader in the movement for LGBTQ+ equality.
While 19 state legislatures and counting have passed laws banning gender-affirming care for minors this year, Colorado (and several other states) went the other way: Not only have Colorado lawmakers passed bills this session extending additional legal protections to providers of both reproductive care and gender-affirming care, but we now also have laws on the books declaring Colorado will not participate in the extradition and prosecution of other states’ residents who come to Colorado to receive gender-affirming care. It’s important to note that despite opponents of transgender rights’ claims that they’re passing these oppressive laws to “protect children,” both the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Medical Association have endorsed gender-affirming care as medically safe and necessary for the well-being of anyone experiencing symptoms of gender dysphoria.
At a time when LGBTQ+ rights are under unprecedented attack across the country, it’s a blessing to live in a state that cherishes the LGBTQ+ community as much as the cisgender and heterosexual population, particularly given our history.
(Featured image: @GovofCO official Twitter)