Colorado has become the 11th state in the nation to ban gay and trans “panic” as a defense in courtrooms. The enactment of this new legal measure comes after Governor Jared Polis signed multiple LGBTQ+-focused bills into law on Monday.
The new law, officially called SB 20-221, makes it illegal to use being “afraid” of an LGBTQ+ person because of gender or sexual orientation. Under the ban, these outdated defenses are “irrelevant in a criminal case and [do] not constitute sudden heat of passion in a criminal case.”
“It should not be on our books,” Polis said during the law’s signing outside Denver’s LGBTQ+ community center. “It’s offensive to be on our books.”
Polis is the first gay man elected to serve as governor of any state in the country. On Monday, he signed three other LGBTQ+ bills into law along with the prohibition of gay and trans “panic.” The other three newly-signed bills include HB 20-1061, which bans insurance companies from preventing the coverage of HIV treatment; HB 20-1419, which adds funding to help low-income state residents have access to HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment; and SB 20-166, which makes it simpler for trans, intersex, and non-binary minors to accurately update their birth certificate.
The bill reached Polis’ desk after clearing the Colorado House of Delegates with almost unanimous support in June. Representative Brianna Titone, the first openly transgender lawmaker in Colorado, sponsored the law and noted its main purpose was “protecting Black trans women who are really the most vulnerable of the communities that we’re trying to protect here” in a statement.
This new law means Colorado joins states like New York, New Jersey, Washington, Maine, Rhode Island, Illinois, California, Nevada, Connecticut, and Hawaii in banning the legal defense.
Executive director of local LGBTQ+ organization One Colorado Daniel Ramos says there’s reason to celebrate the laws passing considering everything else the state is currently dealing with.
“Although the legislative session took many twists and turns this year, we are proud to see these bills make it through,” said Ramos in a statement. “We are grateful to our legislators and to all Coloradans who advocated to see these bills pass with bipartisan support.”