DENVER – A Colorado House committee Thursday backed a measure that aims to extend rights to transgender people.
House Bill 1265, sponsored by Rep. Dominick Moreno, D-Commerce City, passed the House Health, Insurance and Environment Committee by a vote of 8-5, with Republican Rep. Lois Landgraf of Fountain joining Democrats in supporting the measure.
The legislation still must receive final approval from the House before moving to the Republican-controlled Senate.
It would make it easier for transgender people to change the gender marking on their birth certificates. The current process requires sex-reassignment surgery in order to qualify. The legislation would include hormone treatment, among other “transitional” options.
“What this bill is ... about is making sure a person’s official documents reflect what that person already knows in their heart and in their mind,” Moreno said in presenting the bill.
Few opponents spoke against the measure, with opposition largely led by Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt, R-Colorado Springs, a member of the committee.
Klingenschmitt is a stalwart conservative who has raised eyebrows with controversial comments through his televangelist YouTube show “Pray in Jesus Name.”
Just this week, he came under fire for suggesting that a recent horrific tragedy in Longmont, in which a pregnant woman had her unborn child ripped from the womb, was the “curse of God” as a result of laws that allow women to have abortions. When asked by reporters Thursday about his comments, Klingenschmitt would not apologize, claiming he was only quoting scripture.
He suggested during the hearing Thursday that transgender people who undergo transitional surgery are more likely to commit suicide. He also opined that the measure would lead to fraud, and that those who seek to change their gender are practicing revisionist history.
At one point, Klingenschmitt asked a father if he was committing child abuse by allowing his child to undergo certain sex-transition treatments and procedures. He also suggested that some people might claim they are trans simply to find a way into an opposite-sex bathroom to peep.
“It’s bad for the person who is under this confusion,” he said. “When the government agrees with the lie and the government reinforces that lie in a person’s mind, it creates self-doubt about how they were born.”
For his remarks, the Democratic chairwoman of the committee asked Klingenschmitt several times to dial back his comments.
Several Democrats said the opposition he offered was not only “offensive,” but also an example of “fear mongering.”
With major advances in the arena of same-sex marriage in recent years, transgender rights is considered to be a new legislative frontier for lesbian-, gay-, bisexual- and transgender-rights advocates.
They point out that studies have shown that transgender people are subject to more harassment and bullying, resulting in high rates of depression and thoughts of suicide. Much of the issue has to do with public perception, say LGBT advocates.
“We should be looking for ways to make our laws less burdensome for trans people,” said Dave Montez, executive director of LGBT advocates One Colorado.
Rep. J. Paul Brown, R-Ignacio, voted against the measure. But he said he sympathized with trans individuals.
“If you want to get on my fighting side, you just bully anybody ... Don’t ever let me see anybody bullying anybody,” Brown said.
Several trans people told their stories at the hearing, painting a picture of the struggle.
“No one would choose the difficulties that we go through; no one would choose to be publicly ridiculed; no one would choose to have their families reject them; no one would ever choose something like that,” said Courtney Gray, a transgender woman. “I would have done and tried to do many things to not have to go down this path. I’m so glad I did, because now I’m happy, and I have a happy life.”