In this next installment of queer history in Colorado Springs, we look at conversion therapy and the gay panic defense, which were abolished in Colorado in 2019 and 2020, respectively.
According to The Guardian, religious groups in Colorado Springs have historically been against the banning of conversion therapy, “even though the practice of trying to change someone’s sexual orientation has been widely discredited as harmful and dangerous.”
This hesitation is reflected in organizations like Focus on the Family: “A Christian conservative organization that does national advocacy work and is a major defender of therapists’ rights to promote what the group calls ‘sexual orientation change efforts.’”
In 2019, Colorado’s conversion therapy ban went into effect following the approval of House Bill 19-1129, which prohibits conversion therapy from being practiced on individuals under the age of 18.
An earlier version of the bill was introduced in 2015, but according to New York Magazine, “All three Republicans on the five-person committee [voted] against the bill.” Despite this failure, however, the bill continued to be reintroduced each year until it was finally signed into law on May 31, 2019 by Jared Polis, the first governor of Colorado (and the first governor in the entire country) to ever openly come out as gay.
According to One Colorado, “Colorado is the 18th state in the country to ban conversion therapy for minors.” Considering the state’s (especially Colorado Springs’) reputation for anti-LGBTQ+ beliefs and policies, the acceptance of House Bill 19-1129 has marked a huge shift in how Colorado cares for and protects LGBTQ+ youth — though the journey is far from over.
According to KOAA News 5, “The state of Colorado has one of the highest suicide rates in the country, with the CDC ranking it seventh in the nation in 2020.” The continued efforts of Coloradans to vote for the legal support and protection of LGBTQ+ individuals will undoubtedly help this number decline, as revealed by the banning of conversion therapy in 2019.
In addition to the banning of conversion therapy, the use of the gay and transgender “panic defense” was banned in Colorado as of July 13, 2020. According to the Colorado General Assembly, “evidence relating to the discovery of, knowledge about, or potential disclosure of the victim’s actual or perceived gender, gender identity, gender expression, or sexual orientation …is irrelevant in a criminal case and does not constitute sudden heat of passion in a criminal case.”
This bill, known as Senate Bill SB20-221, was signed into law on July 13, 2020 by Jared Polis, and according to The American Values Atlas, as of 2020, 77% of Coloradans are in favor of LGBTQ+ nondiscrimination laws, including the banning of conversion therapy for minors and the banning of the gay and transgender panic defense.
While Colorado Springs is far from being a community that not only tolerates but accepts LGBTQ+ individuals (especially young queer people and queer people of color), the pendulum is definitely swinging in a promising direction when it comes to the legal protection of LGBTQ+ individuals and minors who are at-risk for suicide, bullying, hate crimes and other forms of sexual or gender-based discrimination.