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Colorado's Gay Governor Signs Ban on Conversion Therapy for Minors

Jared Polis

Jared Polis also signed a bill making it easier to update gender markers on birth certificates.

Colorado today became the 18th U.S. state to ban the use of conversion therapy on minors, with Gov. Jared Polis signing legislation to that effect into law.

Polis signed this bill as well as one making it easier for transgender and nonbinary people to change the gender marker on their birth certificates "in front of a cheering crowd gathered on the west steps of the Capitol," The Denver Post reports.

"This has truly been a testament of how progress takes time," Rep. Daneya Esgar, the legislature's LGBT Caucus cochair and a lead sponsor of the both bills, told the crowd just before Polis signed them.

Colorado lawmakers had tried to pass both bills previously, but they had always stalled in the Senate due to Republican control. In this session Democrats now have a majority in the Senate as well as the House, making approval possible.

The conversion therapy bill prohibits state-licensed mental health care providers from subjecting people under 18 to the practice, designed to change a person's sexual orientation or gender identity. It has been condemned as ineffective and harmful by all major medical and mental health organizations. Practicing conversion therapy on minors will be classified as unprofessional conduct.

The birth certificate bill removes the requirements for having surgery, a doctor's note, or a court order for changing a gender marker, and the requirement for publishing a notice for a name change. It will also allow a nonbinary gender marker -- X instead of M or F -- making Colorado the third state, after California and Oregon, to offer this. And applicants can receive a new birth certificate rather than an amended one.

"The strong bipartisan support of both of these bills further demonstrates that LGBTQ equality should be a nonpartisan issue, and we applaud the Republicans who stood with our community," said Daniel Ramos, executive director of LGBTQ rights group One Colorado, in a press release. "Colorado will continue to make history as our country's first openly gay governor, Jared Polis, signs our pro-equality agenda into law to send a strong message that Colorado is a state that is open to all."

"The Trevor Project is proud to stand with One Colorado and all of the amazing lawmakers and advocates in the Centennial State as they become the 18th state in the country to protect LGBTQ youth from the dangers of conversion therapy," added Sam Brinton, head of advocacy and government affairs for the Trevor Project, in the same release. "Watching the first openly LGBTQ governor in the nation sign this legislation is an especially humbling moment. Trevor will continue working across the nation until this horrible practice is relegated to the dustbin of history."

"Today, we witnessed the nation's first openly gay man elected governor, Gov. Jared Polis, sign into law two pro-equality pieces of legislation, including a bill that protects LGBTQ youth in the state from the dangerous, debunked practice of so-called 'conversion therapy,'" said a statement released by Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin. "Governor Polis has been a trailblazing champion for LGBTQ rights and representation, both in Colorado and for LGBTQ people across the nation. While there is much work to be done to ensure that all of us are treated equally under the law, this is a great day for progress -- for Colorado and for our community."

In addition to the 18 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico ban the use of conversion therapy on minors, as do at least 50 cities and counties, according to HRC. Maine earlier this week became the 17th state to do so.

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