Oct 30, 2023 - Politics

Youth council calls on Colorado lawmakers to pass gender-affirming laws

Illustration of columns in the colors of the transgender pride flag.

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

Colorado's youth want lawmakers to create a more gender-affirming atmosphere in schools and health care settings.

Driving the news: The Colorado Youth Advisory Council β€” which includes students aged 14-19 from across the state and lawmakers β€” sent that message as it recently advanced two draft bills for lawmakers to possibly consider in the coming legislative session.

  • One measure would require public schools to address students by their preferred name without requiring a name or gender change. To not do so would qualify as discrimination.
  • A second bill would provide state grants to health providers to get trained in gender-affirming care and create a task force to study obstacles for transgender people in Colorado.

Why it matters: How to support transgender youth is an ongoing debate that is roiling this November's school board elections, where conservatives are pushing back against similar policies. And the legislation from the students ensures it will only continue at the Capitol next year.

Context: The Democratic-controlled Legislature has advanced a handful of measures to expand transgender rights and protections in recent years, including requiring new public buildings to install bathrooms for all genders, prohibiting conversion therapy for minors and making it easier for people to change genders on official documents.

What they're saying: The bills tell transgender youth "that they are important, that they are real and that they are loved and that they are supported and that they do have people that care for them," 17-year-old Meghan Taylor of Manitou Springs told CPR News.

The other side: Republican state lawmakers on the panel objected to the name requirements in school, suggesting it amounts to "lying" to parents who won't know about their child's other name. "We're trying to solve a problem with deceit," Rep. Ron Weinberg of Loveland said.

Of note: Other legislation drafted by the youth council, including bills to create an ethnic studies commission and address gun violence in schools, did not advance.

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