DENVER – Colorado’s Jared Polis, elected as the nation’s first openly gay governor last year, signed into law Friday a ban on psychotherapy denounced as damaging that seeks to change the sexual orientation or gender identity of minors.
On the eve of Pride Month in June, Polis called the ban an appropriate way to celebrate historic strides made by Colorado’s LGBTQ community. “Happy Pride Month!” he told several dozen activists and lawmakers at a Capitol signing ceremony.
Colorado becomes the 18th U.S. state – and the fourth this year, in addition to the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico – to ban conversion therapy, which has been denounced by psychology’s governing bodies and has been linked to increased risk of suicide, depression and drug use among teens.
Polis, a Democrat, denounced what he called the “torturous” practice before signing the bill.
The event capped a five-year legislative effort to pass a ban – and was a notable achievement for a state that, in 1992, adopted an amendment to ban anti-discrimination laws protecting gay people. The U.S. Supreme Court eventually overturned the amendment.
Republicans who controlled the state Senate had blocked earlier attempts to ban the therapy. But Democrats took over both chambers of the Legislature last November and retained the governor’s seat. This year’s bill passed with bipartisan support.
“We sat there in tears, year after year,” hearing testimony about harm inflicted on children, said Democratic Rep. Dafna Michaelson Jenet, a bill sponsor. “No more sobbing children!” she declared.
Polis also signed into law a bill making it much easier for transgender Coloradans to update the gender on their birth certificates, identification documents and driver’s licenses.
Citizens can choose M, F or X in requesting new identity documents without, as previously required, seeking a court order, a doctor’s note or providing proof of surgery. People who don’t identify as strictly male or female can choose “X.”
The law also eliminates required publication of legal notices for name changes.
Lawmakers nicknamed the initiative law Jude’s Law after a teenage transgender girl testified repeatedly in favor of it. Jude – whose family has requested her last name be withheld to respect her privacy– attended the ceremony and was given a bill-signing pen by Polis.
One Colorado, which supported both bills, has estimated that several dozen licensed, unlicensed, secular and religious practitioners in Colorado engaged in conversion therapy. Colorado Springs-based ministry Focus on the Family fought against conversion therapy bans.
Maine banned conversation therapy for minors on Wednesday. Massachusetts and New York did the same this year.