Jun 28, 2022 - News

Roe v. Wade reversal could threaten LGBTQ+ rights in Colorado

Illustration of a rainbow-colored gavel.

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

In the days since Roe v. Wade's reversal, civil rights advocates in Colorado and nationwide are warning that marriage equality may be the next liberty to disappear.

Why it matters: Unlike access to abortion, Colorado lawmakers have yet to add constitutional and legal protections enshrining same-sex marriage into law.

Driving the news: In a concurring opinion on overturning Roe v. Wade, Justice Clarence Thomas said the Supreme Court should reconsider past opinions protecting same-sex relationships, marriage equality and access to contraceptives, Axios' Oriana Gonzalez reports.

Jared Polis, the first openly gay man elected governor in the U.S., has indicated he would support enshrining such safeguards in the next legislative session.

  • Yes, but: With Republicans poised to gain legislative seats — and potentially overtake the state Senate — there's no guarantee.

What they're saying: Coloradans are facing an "attack on personal liberty and civil rights," but "we will not allow them to force anyone back into the closet," Joe Foster, spokesperson for the LGBTQ+ advocacy group The Center on Colfax told Axios Denver in a statement.

  • "Do not give in, do not give up hope, and remember that elections matter," the group added. "Our freedom is on the ballot this November."

State of play: Marriage equality advocates agree Colorado has some of the strongest protections for LGBTQ+ rights, including being the first state to require that private insurers cover gender-affirming care for transgender people.

  • But they say that fortifying these safeguards, including codifying marriage equality into state law, is necessary in 2023 to combat attacks at the federal level.
  • "It's one of the main priorities for One Colorado going into the next legislative session," Garrett Royer, deputy director for the LGBTQ advocacy group, told CPR.

The other side: Thomas is the only justice who has publicly expressed interest in reconsidering other precedents, including access to contraceptives.

  • What immediate effect, if any, his opinion will have remains unclear.

The bottom line: Colorado advocates believe that same-sex marriage needs to be put into the state constitution to ensure it's protected from future court decisions.

  • State law currently protects civil unions, but gaps in the language leave same-sex marriage susceptible to erosion.

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