A new “transgender nondiscrimination” bill pending in Colorado, which would make it illegal to deny a person access to public accommodations including restrooms and locker rooms based on gender identity or the “perception” of gender identity, is one signature away from becoming law.

Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter, a Democrat, has one week to sign or veto Senate Bill 200, recently passed by both the House and the Senate. The bill, titled “Expanded Discrimination Prohibitions,” holds this definition:

“‘Sexual orientation’ means a person’s orientation toward heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality, or transgender status or another person’s perception thereof.”

According to the bill, business owners and managers of restaurants, gyms, barber shops, massage parlors, etc., and managers of “public [facilities] of any kind whether indoor or outdoor” cannot deny a person employment or access to a facility based on gender identity or that “perception.”

The bill also makes it illegal to discriminate based on “sexual orientation” when renting, selling or leasing housing or when selecting members for jury duty. Penalties for those who discriminate against others based on gender identity include fines and/or time in jail.


The same issue, on which WND has reported, already has created a mess in Montgomery County, Md., where a lawsuit is pending seeking to deprive residents of the right to vote on whether they want their restrooms and locker rooms opened to men who believe they’re women.

WND reported earlier that the Montgomery County Board of Elections had certified a petition assembled by Maryland Citizens for a Responsible Government and it would be placed on the November election ballot.

The petition seeks to reverse a county law adopted in recent months that aims to “protect” transgender people from discrimination in housing, employment, public accommodations and various services. Critics say instead it would virtually eliminate the ability of businesses, clubs or anyone providing a “public facility” to prevent men from entering women’s showers, and vice versa.

The Colorado bill says churches, synagogues, mosques, and other places used principally for religious purposes are not included in the definition of “place of public accommodation.”

But groups such as Colorado Family Action and Colorado Springs-based Focus on the Family are urging citizens to petition Ritter to veto the bill.

On his radio program, Focus founder James Dobson said Ritter will probably sign SB200 in upcoming days, according to the governor’s staff. His signature will spark “more than 20 changes in the Colorado law” including creating access to “all public restrooms by people of the opposite gender,” Dobson said.

Focus on the Family Action has been running radio ads that highlight the possibility of child predators entering public restrooms if the bill passes, because “all public restrooms, including those in our public schools, will be open to anyone of any sex.”

Bill supporters call the ads “fear mongering.”

“We must be sure to have protections not only against blatant acts of discrimination that occur, but also against the subtle discrimination that remains so pervasive!” said Equal Rights Colorado.

Soulforce, a group that compares the movement for “freedom for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people” to the civil rights campaign of the 1960s, says Dobson’s “words cause unnecessary fear and panic … dividing parents from their gay sons and lesbian daughters, and neighbors from one another.”

But in an editorial in the Denver Post, Tom Minnery, vice president of government and public policy for Focus on the Family Action, said the plan is “a hastily conceived and vastly overwritten piece of legislation designed to forcibly normalize all varieties of sexual orientation.”

“Woe to the first women’s fitness facility or mall owner who objects to a man dressed as a woman who wants to enter previously forbidden territory,” Minnery said.

Colorado State Rep. Amy Stephens “was on the floor fighting against this legislation,” according to Dobson.

Stephens said she made two “major” amendments to SB200 “that give a minute amount of protection, and that’s nothing compared to the expanse of what this bill’s going to go after.”

” … Lest we think that this is just the ‘bathroom bill,’ I’d like us also to realize that this really is about Christian businesspeople being able to practice their faith through their profession,” Stephens said today, citing an Albuquerque photographer who refused to photograph a same sex couple’s ceremony, was brought before the New Mexico Civil Rights Commission, found guilty and fined $6,000.

Dobson said that the Colorado bill, if made law, will be “coming to every state in the country.”

In 2005, the state’s legislature passed a similar bill, but then Republican Gov. Bill Owens vetoed the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which prohibited employers from discriminating based on gender identity.

“This legislation is an encroachment upon religious beliefs and the First Amendment right to free exercise of religion,” said Focus on the Family Action. “No person should be required to help others advance a message that they morally disagree with.”

The Colorado bill was sponsored by Sen. Jennifer Veiga of Denver and Rep. Joel Judd.

 


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Sterling Meyers is an intern for WND.

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