A majority of Colorado Democrats in the state House voted against a measure that proposed to boost criminal penalties for indecent exposure in view of a minor, and one state lawmaker has voiced concern that the bill could be used to "ban" drag shows and harm the transgender community.
On Saturday, state Rep. Leslie Herod, a Democrat representing a Denver-area district in the state House, raised objections to the measure, dubbed HB23-1135, from the House floor.
"These types of laws have been used to ban drag shows, to target individuals who use the restroom — the sex they identify with, a public restroom — to charge them with felony charges," Herod said. "I'm very concerned about the attacks against the transgender community that are happening across the country."
The bill was introduced by Democrats Dafna Michaelson Jenet and Shannon Bird in the state House and Democrat Sen. Rachel Zenzinger and Republican Sen. Jim Smallwood led the Senate version of the measure, but despite their efforts, the bill passed with unanimous Republican support and 27 of the 46 Democratic representatives voting against it.
Herod continued her argument against the bill, saying she didn't see the potential for it to target the transgender community when she initially read it, but after further research and conversations with colleagues, she realized the language is "very much mirrored in some of the laws that have been used to target members of our community because of who they are."
Bird, who introduced the bill in the state House, noted that none of the LGBTQ+ advocacy organizations in Colorado had expressed concern about the bill and that every district attorney in the state backed the measure.
"There is no intent to harm any member of any community," Bird said. "This is about protecting children, making sure that any sex crime against a child is punished."
The Colorado House Republican Caucus took to Twitter to take aim at the 27 Democrats who voted against the measure, highlighting Herod's remarks from the floor.
"A Democrat attacked the bill for ‘targeting’ the transgender community in her dissent," the GOP caucus wrote. The bill's fiscal note stated that it "would increase state revenue from criminal fines and court fees by a minimal amount beginning in fiscal year 2023-24, credited to the Fines Collection Cash Fund, various other cash funds in the Judicial Department, and the General Fund."
The fine penalty for a class 6 felony under the proposed law is $1,000 to $100,000 and $500-$1,000 for a class 1 misdemeanor.