hate crimes billGov. John Hickenlooper congratulates Rep. Mike Foote, D-Lafayette, after signing a bill to better protect LGBTQ people and people with mental or physical disabilities from harassment, (Photo courtesy of One Colorado)

This is shaping up to be a pivotal week for LGBTQ Coloradans on discrimination, religious liberty and the state hate crime law.

Tuesday, Democratic members of Congress, including all of Colorado’s members, agreed to protect LGBTQ Americans from discrimination under civil rights protections.

Thursday, President Trump is expected to sign an executive order expanding religious liberty laws, which could allow what LGBTQ advocates think is blatant discrimination by denying services or restricting restrooms or locker rooms against transgender people.

But Wednesday was a day to savor for One Colorado, the state’s largest LGBTQ advocacy group.

Gov. John Hickenlooper signed bipartisan House Bill 1188 to add sexual orientation and physical and mental disabilities to the state’s hate-crime law against harassment.

“I feel great about passing this bill,” said Rep. Mike Foote, D-Lafayette, a deputy Boulder County prosecutor who first introduced the bill. “Protecting the disability and LGBTQ communities from hate-based harassment is so important and meaningful.”

The new law also upgrades the offense from a class 3 to a class 1 misdemeanor, increasing the maximum penalties from six months in jail and a $750 fine to 18 months and $5,000.

“I’m proud of this bill,” said Senate sponsor Don Coram, R-Montrose, who gave the bill the Republican muscle it needed to pass. “By offering the same protections to these groups that we extend to those already covered, we can encourage more victims to come forward and report the crimes against them.

“More Coloradans will feel secure today.”

House Bill 1188 passed the Senate, 23-12, on April 11, after passing the House, 48-15, on March 15.

The bill was co-sponsored in the Senate by Democrat Dominick Moreno of Commerce City.

“We applaud Gov. Hickenlooper for protecting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer Coloradans and people living with disabilities,” Daniel Ramos, the executive director of One Colorado, said.

“The widespread, bipartisan support for House Bill 1188 proves that protecting Colorado’s most vulnerable populations is not a partisan issue. This was a common-sense measure that strengthens protections for our communities and we are excited for it to become law. We thank Rep. Mike Foote, Sen. Dominick Moreno and Sen. Don Coram for their leadership in bringing this bill forward.”

Link to the original article.