Thunderdome 2015: LGBTQ people vs. Christian right

“Thunderdome 2015” is The Colorado Independent’s wrap-up series on the 2015 legislative season. For a series overview, check out “Thunderdome 2015: 120 days under the gold dome.”

After a string of gains over the last year, the LGBTQ community in Colorado was dealt defeats at the statehouse this year. The Republican-controlled Senate killed a bill aimed at streamlining the complicated process in Colorado through which residents can change the gender identification on their birth certificates. The vote came after lengthy and emotional testimony.

The process now in place requires people to undergo sex-reassignment surgery and to appear before a judge with a doctor’s note and, even then, the certificate is simply amended, not changed.

As a host of transgender Coloradans — children, teens, military veterans — and their loved ones testified, many transgender people don’t want or can’t afford surgery. They just want to change their birth certificates. They told lawmakers that they know better than most people that a birth certificate is a vital personal document required all the time in official settings.

The bill was about eliminating humiliating bureaucracy, getting the state the hell out of your most personal business, exercising individual liberty, fully exerting the right to your own identity and creating an equal shot at happiness.

Conservatives on the Senate State Affairs committee may love individual liberty and small government and eliminating soul-crushing rules and regulations, but not when it comes to the non-hetero and queer population.

Top state lobbyist for the Christian-right Alliance Defending Freedom, Mike Norton, was one of only two witnesses to testify against the bill at the crucial Senate hearing. He opposed it as it could encourage fraud, he said, because transgender people could fool unsuspecting lovers into marriage and boys could fake being girls in order to win sport scholarships.

When Republican members of the committee voted against the bill, they understandably didn’t lean on the fraud arguments. In fact, they didn’t say much at all.

No one mentioned for instance, that the Alliance Defending Freedom has long argued that there’s no such thing as “transgender” people. As part of a “media kit” written for journalists covering sexuality and other fraught topics of interest, the Alliance suggests using the phrases “cross-dressing” or “gender confused” instead of “transgender.”

Which brings us to the other main bill the parties battled over this year. The same Republicans on the State Affairs committee killed a bill to ban dangerous psuedo-scientific gay-conversion therapy for young people.

Many expected the bill to pass. Evidence is overwhelmingly weighted on one side of the issue. Gay “repair” therapy is opposed by mental health experts because it doesn’t work and because it tanks young gay people’s self esteem, playing on and confirming their worst fears and anxieties and plunging them into depression and worse.

The vote to kill the ban came just hours after the White House announced it opposed the alleged treatment.

“While a national ban would require congressional action, we are hopeful that the clarity of the evidence… will lead to broader action that this Administration would support,” read a White House release.

Senate committee member Owen Hill, a Republican from Colorado Springs, explained his no vote as a vote for liberty.

Some believe government should “mitigate the possibility of risk from our lives,” he wrote to supporters, but “human dignity is upheld by allowing individuals to choose.”

Read “Thunderdome 2015: 120 days under the gold dome,” for the rest of the series. 


Photo credit: torbakhopper, Creative Commons, Flickr