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Colorado House votes against designating name-change bill ‘Tiara’s Law’


Colorado House votes against designating name-change bill ‘Tiara’s Law’

Feb 26, 2024 | 7:50 pm ET
By Sara Wilson
Colorado House votes against designating name-change bill ‘Tiara’s Law’
Members of the Colorado House of Representatives on May 9, 2022. (Pema Baldwin for Colorado Newsline)

Members of the Colorado House of Representatives voted against naming a bill, related to legal name changes, for the woman who inspired it.

Lawmakers were set to vote Monday on final passage on two name change-related bills, but the debate on the amendment ate up most of the floor work time and both votes were delayed.

The rare third reading amendment was a proposal to name House Bill 24-1071 “Tiara’s Law,” which is what the legislation has been colloquially known as since introduction.

That would be in honor of Tiara Latrice Kelley, a transgender woman who lives in Colorado Springs and has three misdemeanor charges from previous sex work in Florida. Her charges were converted to a felony according to a provision of Florida law.

Right now, a person convicted of a felony has to show good cause before a judge to have their legal name changed. HB-1071 would add gender-affirming care to the definition of good cause, meaning that a transgender person who was convicted of a felony under their previous name could petition a court to change their name — and update it on documents like their driver’s license — to match their gender identity. A judge would still need to approve the name change.

Kelley has been unable to change her legal name because of current regulations. Bill sponsor Rep. Lorena Garcia, an Adams County Democrat, said Kelley hasn’t been able to access victim support for Club Q survivors because of a legal name requirement.

“The reason why it’s important to put a name to this bill is because Tiara is a brave and important, strong woman in our community. She has been willing to put herself and her life at risk for the trans community, to have access to a right that is readily available to others,” Garcia said in introducing the amendment.

After nearly two hours of debate, however, the amendment failed on a 31-28 vote. An amendment needs a majority vote of the entire 65-member chamber, no matter how many members are actually present. There were six members excused during the vote, and 10 Democrats voted with Republicans against it. Democrats control a large majority in the chamber.

Lawmaker ignores speaker’s instruction

Republicans argued that a law should not be named for someone with a criminal history.

“If we’re naming bills after people, which I don’t think is how we need to legislate anyway, it should be in a memorial fashion, for someone who did a heroic act,” Rep. Ryan Armagost, a Berthoud Republican, said. “Colorado, in creating legislation, is not putting something out there to commemorate someone with a criminal history that is public.”

Republicans read a list — the accuracy of which Garcia disputed — of Kelley’s criminal convictions. That prompted Rep. Leslie Herod, a Denver Democrat, to point out that Martin Luther King Jr. also has a criminal history and has a holiday named in his honor. Republicans contended that King’s record of arrests for civil rights activism is not comparable to crimes related to sex work.

At one point, Rep. Scott Bottoms, a Colorado Springs Republican, referred to Kelley by her previous name, a derogatory act known as deadnaming. This was after a lengthy recess and explicit reminder from House Speaker Julie McCluskie, a Dillon Democrat, to only use Kelley’s preferred name and to refer to her as a woman. Bottoms has a history of anti-LGBTQ rhetoric on the House floor.

McCluskie immediately gaveled and told Bottoms to leave the well when he deadnamed Kelley.

There is precedent for naming bills after individual people. Lawmakers voted to name a 2019 law that allows transgender people to more easily change their name on identity documents after the teenager, Jude, who lobbied for it. A 2022 law was dubbed “Marlo’s Law” after then-House Majority Leader Daneya Esgar’s child.

The distinction in this case is Kelley’s criminal background.

“We are horrified that Democrats have caved to anti-trans rhetoric and opposed this simple amendment for bad political purposes. Tiara is a leader, a community beacon of light. Tiara’s Law will become law and we will always know that as its name. The opposition used blatant lies about Tiara including background checks for every person who shared her name — not even her — to destroy her on the floor,” Z Williams, the co-director of the Denver nonprofit Bread and Roses Legal Center, said in a text message to Colorado Newsline.

After the amendment failed, House Majority Leader Monica Duran laid over the vote on the actual bill, as well as the other bills on the day’s calendar. That included a final vote on a bill that would require schools to use a student’s preferred name and pronouns on unofficial documents, which was the subject of hours of debate on Friday during its second reading. It is likely to elicit debate when it comes up for final passage.