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Voters cast their ballots at Augustana Lutheran Church Nov. 8, 2022, in Denver. (Olivia Sun, The Colorado Sun via Report for America)
Story first appeared in The Unaffiliated

Colorado GOP Chairman Dave Williams formed an issue committee late last month to support a forthcoming 2024 ballot measure that would ban “child gender reassignment medical procedures” in the state. 

Tom Bjorklund, treasurer of the Colorado Republican Party, is listed as the designated filing agent for the committee, called “Let Kids Be Kids.” The group’s address was originally listed as the Colorado GOP’s headquarters in Greenwood Village. It was changed Wednesday to a post office box in Grand Junction, where Bjorklund lives.

Williams on Friday confirmed to The Colorado Sun that he formed the committee. 

“This is an issue that will certainly unite Republicans across Colorado,” Williams told The Sun, “but it’s a separate legal effort apart from the party.”

The state’s Title Board hasn’t received a proposed 2024 ballot measure to ban medical procedures related to gender-affirming care for children in Colorado. Williams said the initiative is still in the works.

“We are finalizing language soon and are using other state laws that have recently passed around the country as a framework,” Williams said. He said the definition of “child gender reassignment medical procedures” is still being ironed out, but said the measure will generally aim to prevent children from receiving medications or surgeries related to gender-affirming care. That mayinclude hormone blockers that prevent teens from going through puberty.

Stopping juveniles from getting gender-affirming surgery or medical treatment has become a focus of Williams and right-wing Republicans across the country. Twenty-one states have banned gender-affirming care for people younger than age 18, according to the Human Rights Campaign. An additional seven states are considering such bans. 

Colorado, where Democrats control the legislature and the governor’s office, is not among them.

In June, the Colorado GOP sent out an email saying, “Democrats support groomers who ‘teach’ your children about so-called gender affirming care … this is sick and the Colorado Republican Party will speak against it.” 

Williams also blasted fellow Republicans who signed onto a May 1 letter asking the Montana House of Representatives, which is controlled by the GOP, to reconsider its decision to prohibit transgender Rep. Zooey Zephyr from its chamber. Zephyr, a Democrat, was barred from the Montana House in April after refusing to apologize for saying that lawmakers in that state who supported a ban on gender-affirming care for kids would have “blood” on their hands.

Colorado is one of at least eight states that have laws protecting gender-affirming health care.

Rep. Brianne Titone, an Arvada Democrat and the Colorado legislature’s first transgender lawmaker, was a lead sponsor of Senate Bill 188 this year, which prohibits state courts, law enforcement and regulators from recognizing or participating in out-of-state criminal or civil proceedings around abortions or gender-affirming care.

Titone predicted voters would reject a proposed ban on gender-affirming care if it were to end up on the ballot, just as Colorado voters have rejected ballot measures seeking to restrict abortion access.

“This is abortion 2.0, and (Republicans are) losing on abortion,” she said. “So they’re trying to use this as their rallying call.”

One Colorado, an LGBTQ+ advocacy group, said it will oppose Williams’ initiative.

“It would take life-saving medical care away from transgender youth. Colorado is better than this,” said Executive Director Nadine Bridges. “Transgender youth should not be used for political gain or feeble attempts to seek attention, and we are confident voters will reject this cynical proposal if it even makes it to the ballot.”

Getting a measure on the statewide ballot isn’t easy. 

Williams and Bjorklund would need to get ballot language approved by the state’s Title Board and then gather more than 125,000 signatures from Colorado voters to get their question before voters in 2024. 

Most groups pay signature gatherers to get their measure on the ballot, but that can cost well over $1 million — money the Colorado GOP, whose fundraising has been hamstrung, doesn’t have.

Colorado Republicans are in a historic minority in the state legislature and don’t have a reasonable chance at winning back power in the House or Senate until the 2026 election. There are also no statewide-elected Republicans in Colorado, and the GOP is in a 7-3 minority in the state’s congressional delegation.

Jesse Paul is a Denver-based political reporter and editor at The Colorado Sun, covering the state legislature, Congress and local politics. He is the author of The Unaffiliated newsletter and also occasionally fills in on breaking news coverage....

Sandra Fish has covered government and politics in Iowa, Florida, New Mexico and Colorado. She was a full-time journalism instructor at the University of Colorado for eight years, and her work as appeared on CPR, KUNC, The Washington Post, Roll...