Week 9: Disappointment in the Senate, Progress in the House

Week 9: Disappointment in the Senate, Progress in the House

What’s the hap at the cap? Colorado legislative updates affecting youth sexual health, from February 25 - March 9th.

By Liz McKay, Policy and Education Intern
March 10, 2016

Yesterday, the Senate State, Veterans, and Military Affairs Committee heard the Parental Involvement Bill (HB-1002). This bill, which passed with bipartisan support in the House, would allow parents unpaid time off from work so that they can support their children’s education by attending limited school meetings, like parent-teacher conferences, conduct meetings, or dropout prevention services. Colorado Youth Matter values parental involvement, not only for the educational benefits for the student, but also because it is linked to delayed sexual activity and better contraceptive use for youth.

Senator Andy Kerr presented the bill, and was followed by a host of witnesses testifying in support of HB-1002, including a young boy who had experienced first hand the harm caused when parents are not allowed to support their children in school. Unfortunately, the committee voted against the bill 3-2, and HB-1002 was postponed indefinitely.

On a brighter note, the House passed legislation last Friday that would simplify the process of changing the gender on birth certificates for transgender individuals. Current law mandates that a transgender person undergo surgery or attain a court order stating their gender has changed before their personal gender identity can be legally reflected. Even then, it appears “amended” on the document. Under HB-1185, transgender people would simply need to submit a written request and a statement from a medical provider. After doing so, they would be issued an entirely new birth certificate.

The House voted 39-26 for the bill, with 5 Republicans siding with Democrats in support of the change. Unfortunately, it is very possible that the bill will fail in the Senate - a similar bill last year made it through the House before the Republican-controlled Senate killed it.
This is a critical step in ensuring that transgender people are fully seen and respected by their government. By sustaining these legal hurdles in law, we are telling transgender people that their gender identity is not legitimate or real unless they have undergone sex reassignment surgery. Not only is this an expensive procedure that is not always covered by insurance, but not all transgender individuals choose to undergo the surgery in the first place. Youth are especially harmed by current law. They face even greater barriers to sex reassignment therapies, whether in the form of unaccepting family members, lack of access to or awareness of health care services, or lack of financial resources. And when schools choose to go by sex rather than gender identity, youth often face discrimination and an uncomfortable educational environment.

Another bill, HB-1210, would prohibit mental health providers from practicing conversion therapy. This practice aims to force queer individuals into being heterosexual through various cognitive, behavioral, or psychoanalytic practices, and is heavily shame-based. Many argue that it is a form of abuse, and can be incredibly harmful, with long term effects such as depression, social withdrawal, suicidality, intimacy issues, high-risk sexual behaviors, and more. Young people in particular are very negatively affected by these practices. According to the National Center for Lesbian Rights, youth who face rejection from their families based on sexual orientation or gender identity are

“...more than eight times more likely to report having attempted suicide, more than five times more likely to report high levels of depression, more than three times more likely to use illegal drugs, and more than three times more likely to report having engaged in unprotected sexual intercourse compared with peers from families that reported no or low levels of family rejection.”

On Tuesday, HB-1210 was heard in the House Public Health Care & Human Services Committee where it passed 7-6 along party lines. It will now go on to be heard by the entire House.