Colorado bill would add gender identity, expression to bias crime laws

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DENVER (KDVR) — Colorado’s lawmakers are considering a measure to add new classes to the state’s bias-motivated crime and harassment laws.

Senate Bill 189, Gender-Related Bias-Motivated Crimes, passed through the Colorado Senate Judiciary committee on Monday in a party-line vote of 3-2. The measure would add gender identity and gender expression as classes protected by Colorado’s bias-motivated crime laws.

“Every Coloradan deserves to feel secure in their community, but far too many folks have been targeted because of who they are or how they identify,” state Sen. Rhonda Fields, a primary sponsor of the bill, said in a release. “As trans, nonbinary, and gender-expressive folks face increasing threats across the country, we will continue fighting to make our state safer for all Coloradans and provide better protections against bias-motivated crime and harassment.”

Bob Gardner, the assistant minority leader, and Kevin Van Winkle, both Republicans, were the nay votes.

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The bill also redefines sexual orientation for purposes of bias-motivated crimes as an “individual’s identity, or another individual’s perception thereof, in relation to the gender or genders to which the individual is sexually or emotionally attracted and the behavior or social affiliation that may result from the attraction.”

State Sen. Chris Hansen, also a prime sponsor of the bill, noted that Colorado is a national leader in advancing the equality and protection of LGBTQ+ people.

“This bill will help protect Coloradans from violence or harassment based on their gender identity or gender expression, and will help ensure perpetrators of bias-motivated crimes are held accountable for their actions,” Hansen said in a release. “I’m pleased to champion this legislation that will help more Coloradans feel secure and keep people in our communities safe.”

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According to 2022 data from the U.S. Department of Justice, Colorado law enforcement reported 71 hate crime cases involving the individual’s sexual orientation and another 20 that involved the victim’s gender identity. Both categories had risen from previous years, with sexual orientation bias-motivated crimes in 2022 accounting for 20.7% of the reports.

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