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State lawmakers consider bills dealing with rights of transgender Coloradans

If approved, the bills would impact schools, courts and detention centers.
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Posted at 8:38 PM, Feb 20, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-20 22:38:01-05

DENVER — State lawmakers have a full slate of bills to consider this legislative session, including ones dealing with the rights of transgender individuals in Colorado.

If passed, they would impact Colorado schools, courts, and detention centers.

The bills have ignited quite a bit of debate.

One bill lawmakers are considering — House Bill 24-1071 — aims to make it easier for convicted felons to change their names to fit their gender identity. State Rep. Lorena Garcia, a Democrat representing parts of Arapaho and Jefferson counties, is the bill’s sponsor.

“This bill simply clarifies that if you're requesting a name change and you have a felony, that you should be allowed to under good cause,” said Garcia.

Garcia said the bill was inspired by a woman named Tiara who moved to Colorado from Florida.

“She has three misdemeanors in her past. And in Florida, three misdemeanors automatically become a felony,” said Garcia. “When she moved to Colorado, she desired to get a name change that matched her gender. And unfortunately, because our laws are so ambiguous, it makes it difficult for her to be able to access the legal avenue to be able to get a legal name change.”

State Rep. Matt Soper, a Republican who represents Delta and Mesa counties, opposes the bill.

“I'm not against someone wanting to change the name or to have a fresh start,” Soper said. “But in the name-changing statute, it lays out good cause for changing a name. And that's really up to the court's discretion. And what we heard throughout the testimony were witnesses saying that they were afraid to go in front of the courts to have their names changed because they were transgender. But yet, no one said they weren't able to get their name changed.”

Another bill, House Bill 24-1170, outlines the rights of transgender youth in juvenile detention centers. For instance, it states they have a right to use their preferred name and gender and have access to separate showers and bathrooms consistent with their gender identity.

A third bill, House Bill 24-1039, requires schools to use a student’s preferred name if a student makes a request, even if the student’s name hasn’t been legally changed. State Rep. Stephanie Vigil, D-El Paso County, said the bill has been significantly streamlined and will affirm that a chosen name falls within the legal protections for gender identity. Vigil said the bill also clarifies that schools need to update their written policies accordingly.

“Parents who accept and affirm their transgender kids, constituting the strong majority of this population, don’t wish to have their children deliberately deadnamed at school, to be outed to classmates without their consent, or to be bullied or harassed,” Vigil said. “These families are enduring unique threats to their safety and their parental rights, which necessitates action such as this legislation.”

Some drivers allege that a parking lot in Cherry Creek North is sending out tickets when posted signs suggest otherwise.

Soper said he also opposes this bill.

“The same student could come in every single day of the week and say their name has a different name. And the teacher is the one who bears all the liability for not calling the student by the right name,” said Soper. “I believe a name is very important. You should be called what it is that you want to be called. But if students are also going to weaponize this and use it as playing games with teachers to get their teacher in trouble, all of a sudden, I have problems with this bill. And parents should be involved with that conversation.”

Vigil said whether a parent is notified of their child’s preferred name at school is not up to the legislature.

“The issue of whether or not a parent would be expressly notified every time a student goes by a name other than what’s on their birth certificate is not addressed in this bill. Mandating that schools initiate specific communications is not the role of the General Assembly,” Vigil said in a statement to Denver7.

Soper said the bills dealing with gender identity and transgender rights are political.

“I think the real idea is the November election and political messaging,” said Soper. “I see these bills as being nothing more than politics.”

Garcia said the legislation is about respecting other people.

“This is about human beings. We all have our names. Some of us might have nicknames. And when we request to be called by a nickname or by a chosen name, it's the respectful thing to do to honor that,” said Garcia. “We live in a time where, unfortunately, people are afraid of what they don't know.”