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The top 12 Colorado legislative issues that Catholics need to know about

The 2021 Colorado legislative session is in full swing. There are many positive bills pertaining to the advancement of Catholic social teaching, but also many other bills potentially harmful to the Church also making their way through the General Assembly. Each legislative session, the Colorado Catholic Conference (CCC) works to ensure that Catholic values are being promoted and defended in the Capitol.  

The Conference is the united voice of the four Catholic bishops of Colorado in public policy. Its mission is to promote the common good consistent with Catholic Social Teaching in public policy and government relations.  

As of April 16, the Conference is working on the following top-12 bills that, if enacted, could significantly impact the lives of Catholics in Colorado. For a full list of the legislation the Conference is working on, please visit here: https://www.cocatholicconference.org/2021-legislative-bills-analysis/ 

For regular updates and other information, be sure to sign up for the CCC legislative network here. 

Five Bills the CCC is Supporting:   

HB 21-1011 Multilingual Ballot Access for Voters 
HB 1101 requires counties to provide multilingual ballot access if either 2,000 adults or 2.5 percent of the adult population primarily speaks another language. Many Colorado counties have significant populations where English is not the native language. Those communities may not be as proficient with English language ballots. HB1101 does not permit noncitizens to vote; however, it does promote inclusivity for every member of Colorado’s voting community to effectively engage their civic duty. 

HB 21-1191 Prohibit Discrimination COVID-19 Vaccine Status 
HB 1191 prohibits employers from discriminating against an employee or applicant based on that individual’s COVID-19 immunization status. The Colorado bishops affirm the utility of COVID-19 vaccinations to promote public health; however, the bishops have also stated that if anyone has a moral opposition to the vaccine, they should not be forced to violate their conscience.  

SB 21-027 Emergency Supplies for Colorado Babies and Families  
SB 027 allocates funding for nonprofit organizations that provide diapers and other childcare necessities to families in need. Helping low-income families obtain basic necessities for caring for their infants, especially during a pandemic, promotes Catholic teaching on caring for the poor and vulnerable. 

SB 21-077 Remove Lawful Presence Verification Credentialing  
This bill specifies that verification of lawful presence of a noncitizen is not required of any applicant for any license, certificate, or registration, particularly in the job fields of education and childcare. The CCC supports better pathways to citizenship for noncitizens, but it is equally important Coloradans give noncitizens the ability to work, which promotes human dignity and flourishing.   

SB 21-146 Improve Prison Release Outcomes 
SB 146 promotes restorative justice by establishing practices that ease the transition back into society for formerly incarcerated persons upon their release. Developing an effective transition plan, particularly for inmates deemed eligible for special needs parole, is an important step to limit recidivation for individuals who may have difficulty integrating back into society.   

Six Bills the CCC Opposes:  

HB 21-1108 Gender Identity Expression Anti-Discrimination 
HB 1108 claims to ban discrimination based on “sexual orientation,” “gender identity,” and “gender expression.” However, it actually discriminates against anyone with a different belief about human sexuality and forces them to conform to government-mandated beliefs. In addition, HB 1108:  

  • Compromises the safety and privacy of biological women (including minors) by allowing biological men who identify as women to enter into private spaces reserved for biological women, including bathrooms, changing rooms, and locker rooms.  
  • Allows biological boys who identify as girls to compete in girls-only sports, taking away athletic opportunities for biological girls.  
  • Has a narrow religious exception to public accommodation, which may be interpreted to not apply to religious-affiliated institutions like Catholic schools or hospitals. 
  • Offers no protections for private individuals to practice their well-founded convictions on human sexuality in the public sphere. 

This is an especially damaging bill to freedoms of conscience, expression, and religion for all Coloradans.  

On Wednesday, April 21, 2021, the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a public hearing for HB21-1108 after Senators adjourn from the Senate Chamber (likely around 10 a.m.). The committee hearing will be held in Room SCR 352 in the Capitol. You can testify in-person, remotely, or provide written testimony. We strongly suggest you testify in-person or remotely. To sign up to testify, click here. 

SB 21-016 Protecting Preventive Health Care Coverage 
SB 016 expands the list of family planning services required to be covered by Colorado health insurance carriers. These “family planning services” and “family-planning-related services” are not clearly defined in the bill and could include abortions. SB 016 removes the requirement that services be provided by a certified family clinic and, even more concerning, it removes the requirement that a provider obtain parental consent before providing these services to a minor. This means that if SB 016 is enacted, pregnant minors could potentially abort their child without parental consent at a “family planning” clinic that may not be certified with a licensed physician on staff. This is an especially harmful bill to sanctity of life and parental responsibility.   

SB 21-009 Reproductive Health Care Program 
SB 009 would create a taxpayer funded state program to increase access to contraceptives. The Catholic Church teaches that sex belongs only in marriage, and in marital sexual intercourse there is a symbolic bodily unity of man and wife. Therefore, in every form of contraception there is an effort to destroy the procreative potential of an act that God has given us as a unique sign of married love. This makes contraception outlined in SB 009 also a violation of the sanctity of life. 

SB 21-025 Family Planning Services for Eligible Individuals 
SB 025 offers financial incentives for low-income women to be given state-funded contraception, “preventing, delaying, or planning pregnancy” services, which includes cessation services and sterilization services. This bill violates the Catholic Church’s teaching on sanctity of life.  

SB 21-031 Limits on Governmental Responses to Protests 
SB 031 will make it more difficult for law enforcement to protect innocent lives when protests turn violent. The CCC supports the right to peacefully protest but recognizes the responsibility of law enforcement to act to ensure public safety, particularly when protests turn violent.  

SB 21-142 Health Care Access in Cases of Rape or Incest 
SB 142 removes the requirement that, if public funds are being used, a physician must perform an abortion at a hospital, and instead allows for abortions to be performed by any licensed provider. If enacted, women will be able to use public tax dollars for an abortion at any licensed facility for cases of rape and incest. Citizens who have a well-founded conviction against abortion should not have their tax dollars used to end the lives of innocent children. Additionally, SB 142 may require religiously affiliated licensed facilities to perform abortions contrary to their ethics.  

SB21-193 Protection of Pregnant People in Perinatal Period 
SB 193 would eliminate an important protection in Colorado law for a preborn and viable baby when a woman is on life support. This violates sanctity of life. 

One Bill the CCC is in “Amend”: 

SB 21-088 Child Sexual Abuse Accountability Act 
As written, SB 88 creates a new statutory cause of action that has serious constitutional and due process problems. For example, the bill would impose liability on private and public institutions for failing to comply with statutes that weren’t enacted at the time of the alleged misconduct. It also holds organizations liable even if they had no reason to believe that the abuser was a danger to children. Finally, the bill revives claims that are barred by the statute of limitations even though the Colorado Supreme Court and Office of Legislative Legal Services (OLLS) have said it is unconstitutional. Passing a bill with constitutional and due process problems will only delay opportunities for survivors to receive compensation and it will not promote true restorative justice. While the Catholic dioceses of Colorado work to ensure support for survivors of childhood sex abuse, they also believe this bill should be fair, reasonable, and constitutional. 

How You Can Help:  

If you are interested in personally advocating for or against any of these bills, you can: 

  1. Call and email your state representatives. 
  1. Testify before state legislative committee in-person, online, or by written testimony. 
  1. Become informed on the issues and legislation impacting your community and spread the word in your parishes and social circles.  

The Colorado Catholic Conference would like to help advise and train any individuals willing to testify in committee. Testimonials are an important part of the legislative process and allow lawmakers to understand the full impact of the legislation they are considering. If you are willing to share your story or concerns with any of the above12 bills or other legislation on our website, please contact us directly at CCC@cocatholicconference.org  

To stay up to date on Colorado legislative issues as they affect the Catholic Church, be sure to sign up for the CCC legislative network HERE. 

Brittany Vessely
Brittany Vessely is the Executive Director of the Colorado Catholic Conference.
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