Gays Against Groomers and Rocky Mountain Women’s Network Sue to Protect Right to Speak on Trans Bills

Attorneys for the Institute for Free Speech filed the lawsuit after Colorado lawmakers silenced and chilled speech during recent public hearings on “Tiara’s Law”

March 27, 2024   •  By IFS Staff   •    •  

Denver, CO — Colorado legislators’ recent actions to suppress and chill speech during public comment time on HB24-1071, dubbed “Tiara’s Law,” represent an alarming assault on First Amendment rights.

Trans ideology requires adherents to use a trans-identifying person’s preferred pronouns and adopted trans name. Doing otherwise is called “misgendering” or “deadnaming.” During recent hearings on what its sponsors call “Tiara’s Law,” certain legislators required that all speakers refrain from misgendering or deadnaming and engage only in “respectful discourse.” Speakers who failed to comply were interrupted, cut off, and prevented from expressing their opinions.

That’s why Institute for Free Speech attorneys filed a federal lawsuit today on behalf of the group Gays Against Groomers, the Rocky Mountain Women’s Network, and individuals from those groups affected by this attempt to shut down debate over transgender legislation.

The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado, names Colorado State Representatives Lorena Garcia, Mike Weissman, Leslie Herod, and State Senators Julie Gonzales and Dafna Michaelson Jenet as having unlawfully restricted or chilled speech related to trans issues, particularly as it pertains to debate over “Tiara’s Law.”

The bill was informally named for Duane Powell (a.k.a. Duane Kelley), who goes by the trans name of “Tiara Latrice Kelley.” The plaintiffs say that Powell is a convicted felon with a lengthy criminal record and opposed HB24-1071 because it will facilitate name changes for transgender felons like Powell. The bill sparked significant public debate, as name changes can make it far easier for felons to hide their criminal past and might make it easier for them to victimize children or other vulnerable populations.

During legislative committee hearings on the proposed law, some sponsors of the bill and their legislative allies used viewpoint-based speech restrictions to censor the speech of plaintiffs Dr. Rich Guggenheim of the organization Gays Against Groomers and Christina Goeke of the Rocky Mountain Women’s Network. During two separate committee hearings, when Goeke attempted to express her opposition to the bill, dissent from transgender ideology, and advocate for women’s sex-based rights, she was repeatedly interrupted before the defendants cut short her testimony.

Similarly, during one committee hearing, when Rich Guggenheim attempted to draw a connection to historical persons from the gay liberation movement and Tiara’s law, the chair interrupted and cut him off for calling two now-deceased gay men by their birth-sex pronouns. People advocating in favor of the bill were not interrupted or cut off at either hearing.

 In a particularly egregious example of unconstitutional viewpoint-based censorship, the Senate Judiciary Committee erased portions of Goeke’s testimony from the official audio record of its hearing on HB24-1071. 

“Americans are having a debate about sex, gender, and pronouns. The First Amendment protects Americans’ right to express their views on those matters, even if those views might be offensive to some,” said Del Kolde, Senior Attorney at the Institute for Free Speech. “By forcing speakers to adopt a contested ideology, Colorado lawmakers unlawfully privileged one viewpoint over another and silenced dissent, going so far as to erase it from the public record.”

To read the complaint in Gays Against Groomers, et al. v. Garcia, et al., click here. To review all the filings in the case, click here.

IFS Staff

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