LGBTQ Non-Discrimination in Colorado:
Since 2008, LGBTQ non-discrimination in Colorado has protected people statewide from discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity (employment non-discrimination for LGBT people was passed in 2007). Following decades of advocacy, including a fight in the 1990s that galvanized the movement, these protections were adopted by the Colorado Legislature and signed by the Colorado Governor on May 2008.
The Latest on LGBTQ Non-Discrimination in Colorado:
The U.S. Supreme Court is currently considering a legal challenge to Colorado’s non-discrimination law. The case, Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, was heard December 5, 2017 with a decision expected in the spring of 2018.
The Path to LGBTQ Non-Discrimination in Colorado:
- 1957: The Colorado Fair Employment Practices Law (later called the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act) is passed to protect residents from discrimination based on race, color, creed, national origin, or ancestry. At the time, the law does not include sexual orientation or gender identity.
- February 1974: Boulder, led by City Council member Penfield Tate (who would go on to become the city’s first black mayor), becomes the first city in the state to offer municipal protections against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Opponents vow to repeal the ordinance and unseat the City Council members who voted to approve the measure.
- May 7, 1974: For the first time in American history, opponents of inclusive non-discrimination protections push through repeal of Boulder’s non-discrimination ordinance during a special election. 13 years later, the question is again placed before voters, who vote to uphold the ordinance.
- December 10, 1990: Colorado Governor Roy Romer signs an executive order prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation in state employment.
- 1991: The Colorado Civil Rights Commission urges the Colorado Legislature to update employment laws to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation.
- May 21, 1991: Opponents of LGBT non-discrimination work in local municipalities to repeal inclusive non-discrimination ordinances. Although they succeed in some cities, including Fort Collins, a majority of residents in Denver, one of the nation’s largest cities, vote to uphold the city’s non-discrimination ordinance.
- May 24, 1992: Opponents of inclusive non-discrimination protections collect enough signatures to qualify Amendment 2 for a statewide vote. The ballot initiative seeks to prohibit Colorado or any municipality “from adopting or enforcing any law or policy which provides that homosexual, lesbian, or bisexual orientation, conduct, or relationships constitutes or entitles a person to claim any minority or protected status, quota preferences, or discrimination” – essentially banning the state or cities from passing LGBT-inclusive non-discrimination ordinances and invalidating existing ordinances, including in Aspen and Denver.
- November 3, 1992: Opponents succeed in pushing through Amendment 2 at the ballot, prohibiting Colorado from extending protections from discrimination based on sexual orientation. Supporters of LGBT-inclusive non-discrimination immediately rally, filing a lawsuit (Romer v. Evans) on November 12, 1992 challenging the constitutionality of Amendment 2.
- December 14, 1993: Colorado District Court Judge Jeffrey Bayless declares Amendment 2 unconstitutional, nearly a year after enjoining enforcement of the law in January 1993 (a decision upheld by the Colorado Supreme Court in July 1993). The decision is appealed to the Colorado Supreme Court.
- October 10, 1994: The Colorado Supreme Court upholds Judge Bayless’ ruling, and opponents appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
- May 20, 1996: In a landmark 6-3 decision authored by Justice Anthony Kennedy, the United States Supreme Court strikes down Amendment 2 as unconstitutional, declaring that it violates the Equal Protection clause. Read the ruling here, and listen to the October 10, 1995 U.S. Supreme Court oral argument in the decision here.
- 1996-2005: Local and national organizations engage in conversations about who LGBT people in Colorado, and support for comprehensive non-discrimination grows.
- February 1, 2000: Boulder again extends municipal protections against discrimination on the basis of gender identity. Local ordinances like this build momentum toward statewide legislation extending non-discrimination to LGBT people.
- May 25, 2007: Colorado Governor Bill Ritter signs into law Senate Bill 25 (the Employment Non-Discrimination Act) extending employment non-discrimination protections to LGBT residents, declaring that employers cannot discriminate based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
- May 29, 2008: Colorado’s Legislature votes in favor of extending protections to people from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in housing and public accommodation, and Governor Bill Ritter signs the bill into law.
- December 6, 2013: A ruling is entered in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case, which concerns a same-sex couple denied service by a bakery in Colorado. Administrative Judge Robert Spencer of the Colorado Office of Administrative Courts rules that Masterpiece Cakeshop discriminated against the same-sex couple because of their sexual orientation, violating Colorado’s longstanding non-discrimination law. The Colorado Civil Rights Commission later enters a final order, and the decision is appealed by the bakery, which seeks a religious exemption from Colorado’s non-discrimination law.
- June 2, 2014: The Colorado Court of Appeals affirms the decision, finding that the bakery violated Colorado’s non-discrimination law. Later, the Colorado Supreme Court denies review of the case, leaving in place the order in favor of the same-sex couple.
- June 26, 2017: The U.S. Supreme Court grants review of the Masterpiece case and hears oral argument on December 5, 2017. Listen to the audio and see what happened outside of the courtroom here.
Last Updated January 11, 2018
303 Creative v. Elenis
Case Seeking Religious Exemption from LGBTQ Non-Discrimination LawsKey Date: March 23, 2020 • Defendant Files Brief to 10th Circuit
Status: Briefing Underway at 10th Circuit Court of Appeals
Legal Team: Alliance Defending Freedom
Type: Public Accommodations Discrimination
The business owner, a graphic designer, says the non-discrimination law forces her to promote marriages between same-sex couples and so she has filed a preemptive lawsuit.Read More
Smith v. Avanti
Case Concerning Housing Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender IdentityKey Date: April 5, 2017 • Ruling Issued in Favor of Plaintiffs
Status: Victory in Favor of Plaintiffs; Case Settled
Legal Team: Lambda Legal
Type: Housing Discrimination
For the first time in federal court, Judge Moore also found that the property owner’s anti-LGBT discrimination violated the Fair Housing Act, which prohibits discrimination based on sex, including stereotypes about sex.Read More