Update 8/2: The law banning conversion therapy statewide went into effect Friday, Aug 2.
Colorado is the second state in a week to ban the practice of conversion therapy for minors. Democratic Gov. Jared Polis, the first openly gay governor elected in the country, signed the bill on the west steps of the state capitol Friday.
The practice, which Polis said wasn’t backed up by any evidence, aims to change the sexual orientation of LGBTQ youth. The governor said, “many of these so-called therapies or treatments are counterproductive leading to lifelong issues with depression, even ultimately ending in suicide for some.”
“This will help so many people in Colorado to make sure that no one can be forced to attend a torturous conversion therapy pseudoscience practice.”
Psychology’s governing bodies have denounced conversion therapy, which treats being gay or transgender as a mental illness.
The new legislation makes Colorado the 18th state — and the fourth this year — to ban the therapy. At the same signing ceremony, Polis also approved a separate measure that allows transgender individuals to change their birth certificate to reflect their gender identity. Colorado elected its first transgender state representative last November in Democrat Brianna Titone.
Democrats had tried for years to pass these laws and were able to do so now because they control both the House and Senate.
“I am proud to say that we are here together today to make sure we continue to push Colorado forward and make life better for everyone,” said Democratic Rep. Daneya Esgar of Pueblo, a primary sponsor of both measures. The bill on transgender birth documents was named Jude’s law, after a transgender girl who came to testify in support of the bill for the last five years.
“I saw this young girl literally grow up in front of us, it was without hesitation that I decided that we needed to name this after her because she was here every single year we ran that bill with the courage as a nine-year-old to share her story with the world,” Esgar said.
State Republicans had defeated versions of these measures when they were in control of the Senate. Opponents worry about the rights of therapists, parents and children who want to get this type of counseling.
Gov. Polis wanted to sign the bills ahead of the start of LGBTQ Pride Month, which is celebrated in June. At the signing ceremony, there was a brightly decorated cake with gay pride colors and the words “we did it.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.