LGBT rights in Colorado
|LGBT rights in Colorado|
|Same-sex sexual activity legal?||Legal since 1972
|Discrimination protections||Yes (both sexual orientation and gender identity or expression)|
|designated beneficiary agreements since 2009 and civil unions since 2013|
|Legal recognition and performance of same-sex marriage prohibited by both the Colorado Constitution and under statutes.|
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons in the U.S. state of Colorado face some legal challenges not experienced by non-LGBT residents. Same-sex sexual activity has been legal in Colorado since 1971. Since 2013, same-sex couples have been able to establish civil unions that provide state-level protections identical to those enjoyed by married couples. However these rights are still not recognized by the federal government, due to only civil unions being available and not civil marriage, which Colorado still bans same-sex marriages both under various statutes and Amendment 43.
Law regarding same-sex sexual activity
In 1860 sodomy was made illegal in Colorado – then the Jefferson Territory – under its first criminal code, which indirectly prohibited sodomy by expressly recognizing English common law, under which the maximum penalty for sodomy was death. In 1861, the United States Congress created the Colorado Territory, whose government enacted a criminal code that punished sodomy, defined by English common law, with penalties ranging from one year to life in prison. In 1922 the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that the ban did not prohibit fellatio, even through the court felt that the behavior was "more vile and filthy than sodomy". The law was revised in 1939 to expressly cover anal sex and fellatio, and the maximum penalty was reduced to fourteen years. In 1953, Colorado enacted a psychopathic offender law that provided for indefinite institutionalization for committing sex crimes, thus putting homosexuals in the same category as rapists and child molesters. In 1970, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that the ban also included cunnilingus.
In 1971 Colorado revised its penal code and repealed the state's ban on sodomy in cases involved non-commercial, private acts between consenting adults. At the same time it instituted a public indecency law that banned public displays of affection between same-sex couples. The Colorado Supreme Court struck down that statute in 1974.
Recognition of same-sex relationships
In 1975, the Boulder County Clerk issued marriage licenses to several same-sex couples after the local district attorney interpreted Colorado's statutes, which used the phrase "any two persons", to be gender-neutral with respect to marriage. The state attorney general issued a contrary opinion that those marriages were invalid. When one of those married in Boulder tried to use it to sponsor his husband for immigration purposes, he lost his case, Adams v. Howerton, in federal court.
In 2006, a state referendum added language to the Colorado Constitution that restricted marriage and common law marriage to couples of different sexes, without mentioning civil unions or domestic partnerships.
In April 2009, Colorado enacted a Designated Beneficiaries law, effective July 1, that allowed anyone to make a same-sex partner the beneficiary of insurance, inheritance, hospital visitations, funeral arrangements and death benefits, and other important matters.
In 2011 and 2012, state lawmakers attempted but failed to pass an act formally recognizing civil unions, though Governor John Hickenlooper endorsed the legislation in his 2012 State of the State address.
In March 2013, both houses of the Democrat-controlled state legislature passed legislation establishing civil unions that provide rights comparable to those provided opposite-sex married couples and the Governor John W. Hickenlooper signed the bill into law on March 21, 2013. The law went into effect on May 1, 2013.
Adoption and parenting
In Colorado, it has been illegal to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity or expression in employment, housing, public accommodations, education, and credit since the category "sexual orientation" was added to the state's Public Accommodations Law in 2008. The bill was controversial and following its passage by the legislature opponents waged a media campaign that failed to persuade Governor Bill Ritter to withhold his signature.
In 2013, a gay couple who had married in Massachusetts tried to purchase a wedding cake at a bakery in Lakewood, Colorado, and were refused. They sued to force the bakery to provide them with the same services as other customers and on December 6 Administrative Law Judge Robert N. Spencer ruled for the plaintiffs in Craig v. Masterpiece Cakeshop. He dismissed the bakery's claim that requiring the business to provide the service violated its owner's rights to free speech or religious expression.
The state's hate crimes law has provided protection based on both sexual orientation and gender identity or expression since 2001. In 2009, in a case thought to be "the first in which a hate crimes law was applied in a murder trial where the victim was transgender", a jury in Greeley, Colorado, convicted a man of first-degree murder and found that it was a hate crime under Colorado law. In 2009, a Colorado sheriff's office charged two lesbians with falsely reporting a hate crime that they had staged themselves.
- Henry, Robin Courtney (2006). Criminalizing Sex, Defining Sexuality: Sodomy, Law, and Manhood in Nineteenth-Century Colorado. Indiana University. pp. 23–5.
- The Pacific Reporter, vol. 263, 22: Robinson v. People, 23 Colo. 123, 46 p. 676
- Eskridge, William N. (2008). Dishonorable Passions: Sodomy Laws in America, 1861-2003. NY: Viking Penguin. pp. 177–8.
- Eskridge, Jr., et al., William N. (2006). Gay Marriage: for Better or for Worse?: What We've Learned from the Evidence. NY: Oxford University Press. pp. 22–3.
- Leagle, Inc.: Adams v. Howerton, 486 F. Supp. 1119 (C.D.Cal.1980). Accessed July 30, 2011
- "Colorado Amendment 43, Definition of Marriage (2006)". Ballotopedia. Retrieved January 24, 2013.
- "Ritter signs bill that will help gay couples". Associated Press (The Denver Post). April 9, 2009. Retrieved January 24, 2013.
- Bartels, Lynn (May 27, 2012). "Anarchy, chaos behind Colorado civil unions bill may have long-lasting effects". Denver Post. Retrieved January 24, 2013.
- "2012 State of the State, January 12, 2012". State of Colorado. Retrieved January 24, 2013.
- Moreno, Ivan (March 21, 2013). "Civil Unions Signed Into Law in Colorado". USA Today. Retrieved March 21, 2013.
- "Colorado Adoption Law". State Laws & Legislation. Human Rights Campaign. Retrieved January 29, 2013.
- Bernard, Tara Siegel (July 20, 2012). "A Family With Two Moms, Except in the Eyes of the Law". New York Times. Retrieved January 24, 2013.
- Rittiman, Brandon (January 25, 2013). "Catholic adoption agencies vow not to serve gay couples". 9news.com. Retrieved January 29, 2013.
- Kyle, Sarah Jane (March 12, 2013). "Catholic Charities: Adoption services 'imperiled' by civil unions passage". The Coloradoan. Retrieved March 13, 2013.
- Ingold, John (July 29, 2008). "Ritter signs controversial anti-discrimination bill". Denver Post. Retrieved December 6, 2013.
- Richardson, Valerie (December 3, 2013). "Gay couple’s complaint against Colo. baker gets hearing". Washington Times. Retrieved December 6, 2013.
- Moreno, Ivan (December 6, 2013). "Judge orders Colorado cake-maker to serve gay couples Read more: Judge orders Colorado cake-maker to serve gay couples". Denver Post. Retrieved December 6, 2013.
- "Colorado Hate Crimes Law". State Laws and Legislation. Human Rights Campaign. Retrieved January 24, 2013.
- Frosch, Dan (April 22, 2009). "Murder and Hate Verdict in Transgender Case". New York Times. Retrieved January 24, 2013.
- Kinser, Jeremy (May 19, 2012). "Did Lesbian Couple Fake Hate Crime?". The Advocate. Retrieved January 24, 2013.