June 1 (UPI) — Colorado became the 18th state to ban gay conversion therapy Friday when Gov. Jared Polis signed the law on the steps of the state Capitol in Denver.
Polis, who is serving as the nation’s first openly gay man elected governor in the country, called the therapy “tortuous” and debunked by experts.
“Colorado has joined a growing list of states that have banned so-called conversion therapy,” Polis said in a Twitter post Friday. “It’s a torturous practice that has long been widely-discredited by medical and mental health professionals.”
Conservative organizations, like Focus on the Family located in nearby Colorado Springs, had long supported the practice, which argued the therapy gave converts the ability to practice their religious faith.
Others objecting to the bill claimed that it would prevent pastors and others to talk about their personal religious beliefs on homosexuality, the Denver Post reported. In a related measure, Polis also signed a bill that would allow transgender Coloradoans to revise their birth certificates without needing to prove they surgically changed gender or post a public notice.
After five years of Democratic effort to pass such a bill, momentum turned in favor of passing a ban when the party took over both branches of the legislature recently. Denver city council voted unanimously to ban gay conversion therapy in January, giving state lawmakers a little extra push.
The Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law said in 2018 that some 20,000 LGBT teenagers would undergo gay conversion therapy by the time there are 18 in the states that have not currently banned the practice.
“Governor Polis has been a trailblazing champion for LGBTQ rights and representation, both in Colorado and for LGBTQ people across the nation,” Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, which advocates of gay rights issues, said in a statement Friday.
“While there is much work to be done to ensure that all of us are treated equally under the law, this is a great day for progress — for Colorado and for our community,” he continued.