Colorado Rights Blog

ACLU of Colorado By: ACLU of Colorado 3.6.2015

Colorado Civil Liberties on the Brink: Why Your Vote Matters

(This entry also appears on the Huffington Post at

Emboldened by some of last November’s election results, Colorado legislators have flooded this year’s legislative session with bills that would roll back civil rights and civil liberties in our state.  The ACLU of Colorado and our allies inside and outside of the Capitol have been successful so far in stopping the most outrageous attacks, but just a tiny shift in a few key races last November would have left Colorado in a very different place, where these bills would have been much harder to defeat and our whole state might have been sent backwards by decades.

Despite the clear will of Colorado voters to protect women’s reproductive rights last November, legislators have introduced at least eight bills this session to limit or ban abortion and other reproductive rights for women, including the same fetal personhood notion that voters just rejected. Thanks to dogged resistance from the ACLU of Colorado and our statewide partners, these bills have so far all been defeated.

In the House of Representatives, three “right-to-discriminate” bills were introduced that, if passed, would eviscerate long-standing protections against discrimination. The lawmakers pushing these bills claim they are about religious freedom and freedom of expression, but they were written so broadly that they would actually give any person or business in Colorado wide license to discriminate against anyone for any reason, violating equal protection rights and creating a hostile climate for customers.  Fortunately, many members of the business community, including the Denver Metro Chamber and several small business owners, have lined up alongside faith leaders and social justice organizations to rebuke these dangerous attempts to legalize discrimination.

At least ten other bills that were introduced this year were designed to repeal or roll back other civil liberties, by attacking voting rights, repealing worker protections, or singling out transgender Coloradans for special discrimination.  Again, the ACLU of Colorado has rallied our allies to fight back against every attack, so that the freedoms and protections that we’ve worked so hard to advance over the years will not be eroded.

One especially difficult battle right now is over a ploy by members of the Joint Budget Committee to undercut and essentially defund a law passed in 2013 by the full legislature to allow immigrant Coloradans access to drivers’ licenses.  Legislators who did not support that law do not have the votes to repeal it, but they are attempting to use their new positions of power to deny funding that is generated by the program itself, not by taxpayers, all to the harm of thousands of families and the safety of our roads, just to make a political point.

The margins between advancing, losing, or just holding ground in civil liberties are very narrow in a state like Colorado.  Voters would do well to pay attention to what goes on in the legislature and to take seriously the threat of legislation that may sound outrageous or laughable now, but that would be anything but funny if a few more races had tipped toward politicians who don’t respect civil liberties.  In some cases, the threat is real even in the current legislature, so your voice matters now to help hold the line against bad bills that target our rights.  At the same time, the ACLU is always willing to work across political lines, and there are still good opportunities for progress in this legislature on issues such as privacy and criminal justice reform.  The ACLU’s alignment is with civil liberties, not political parties. More information about this legislative session can be found at the ACLU of Colorado legislative update page.

Your voice and your vote are needed, this year and every year.  If you did vote last November, thank you, because it matters.  Just look at some of the states where voting rights, reproductive rights and protections against discrimination are under heavy attack and remember–there but for a handful of votes goes Colorado.



  • Cedric Watkins is a father, uncle, entrepreneur-in-training, and a vital community pillar for many others. While behind bars, he has tirelessly devoted himself to serving his peers and his community. He developed gang disaffiliation programs for other incarcerated individuals and is currently involved with Defy Ventures. He sends letters and calls his daughter as much as he can.

    Cedric is currently in prison at Sterling Correctional Facility. He was convicted of aggravated robbery, burglary, kidnapping, theft and sentenced to 80 years; no one was seriously injured or killed. For comparison, a person convicted of second-degree murder in Colorado faces a maximum sentence of 48 years. Cedric has already served 20 years and has fully rehabilitated during that time.

    It’s time to bring Cedric home: Redemption is real. Clemency is compassion.

  • On November 21, 2016, 13 Aurora police officers responded to a simple noise complaint at Alberto Torres’s home. As happens all too often, Aurora police officers escalated this minor issue into a brutal affair. They beat Mr. Torres solely because he delayed exiting his garage to ask his wife to interpret for him. With that beating, the lives of Mr. Torres and every member of his family were changed and he has yet to recover. ACLU of Colorado fought to obtain justice for Mr. Torres, and Aurora has now paid him $285,000. But money is not justice, and the brutality of the Aurora Police Department against people of color has continued unabated.

    It doesn’t have to be this way.

    Imagine, if instead of 13 officers being dispatched to Mr. Torres’s home for a noise complaint, the City of Aurora sent a civilian-led response team to check on his welfare and ask that he and his friends lower their sound, resulting in a non-violent solution to a minor issue?

    ACLU Settles Case With Aurora After Police Brutalize and Unlawfully Arrest Alberto Torres

  • Hope is a discipline. It’s a commitment that together, we can create a more perfect union. We won’t rest until we fulfill the promise of equal rights for ALL people in the United States.

    Join us in our fight to fulfill this promise and move forward with hope by donating to the ACLU of Colorado. Your donation supports the ACLU’s strengths that make our work effective and collaborative.

    Donate now at

  • Anthony Martinez is 84-years-old and suffering from renal failure, as well as other serious medical conditions including dementia. He is currently incarcerated in the Sterling Correctional Facility, site of one of Colorado’s largest COVID-19 outbreaks with almost 600 active COVID-19 cases. He and his family are understandably terrified that he will catch the virus and die.

    In the midst of this public health crisis, incarcerated people as vulnerable as Anthony, could and should be immediately released to safely live out their remaining years with family.

    Read more about Anthony Martinez and other at-risk incarcerated people.