Week 8: Could This Change Sexting in Colorado Forever?

Week 8: Could This Change Sexting in Colorado Forever?

What's the Hap at the Cap? Legislative updates from February 16 - March 2.

Susan Baughman, Policy and Research Intern
March 2nd, 2017

Gear up for the sexting debate, as two bills attempting to address the sharing of sexually explicit messages and/or nude pictures with youth will be up for vote in the Colorado House State Legislature. Both bills attempt to address sexting but in two very different ways.

As a refresher, the first bill that was introduced is House Bill 1064 “Misuse of Electronic Images By A Juvenile,” by Representative Willett (R-Delta, Mesa) and Senator Fields (D-Arapahoe). This bill makes sexting a felony and allows the prosecuting attorney discretion to charge any sexting behavior. This means that anyone who engages in sexting - even if it’s consensual - could be tried for child pornography. In short, the most important and troubling part of this bill is the fact that it does not discern between consensual and nonconsensual sexting, criminalizing all sexting behavior.

Sexting bill number two, which will be introduced within the next week or two, will be sponsored by Representative Pete Lee (D- El Paso). This bill will have a more just approach to sexting, as it will separate consensual sexting from nonconsensual sexting. This distinction is crucial because under current Colorado law, all sexting is viewed as the creation and distribution of child pornography - meaning that youth who create or share photos without consent, their victims, and youth who engage in consensual behavior are all punished the same way. Representative Lee’s bill will only criminalize those who have coerced someone into sexting behavior or shared photos without consent. His bill will also call for the creation of a comprehensive education program that will help youth navigate how to be responsible and respectful in a digital world. Like all sexual activity, there are benefits and risks to sexting; youth have a right to understand those benefits and risks by having access to all of the information they need to make responsible decisions on their own.

CYM firmly believes that sexting is not a deviant or unnatural behavior, and that treating it as such only causes harm and confusion to young people. Consensually sexting with intimate partners is not only a normal and natural part of young people’s sexual development, but has been around long before smart phones (paintings, love letters, etc.). We believe that sexting laws should follow sexual consent laws - if a person is old enough to consent to sex, they are old enough to consent to sexting. Representative Lee’s bill will allow for youth to explore natural sexual behavior, while also being mindful of coercive practices.

Conversely, House Bill 1064 criminalizes all youth, further contributing to our victim-blaming culture. House Bill 1064 would also disproportionately affect marginalized youth. Research shows that LGBTQ youth are more likely to experience dating violence, harassment, and bullying, making them more vulnerable to coercive practices. Since House Bill 1064 criminalizes both the victim and the coercer it could wrongfully criminalize LGBTQ youth.

CYM is committed to protecting Colorado youth, and we are ready to fight for Representative Lee’s bill - and against House Bill 1064. Expect Representative Lee’s bill to be introduced in the next several weeks (check our Facebook and twitter pages for updates), then plan to get on the phone with your representative! These bills could seriously change the way our youth are allowed to learn about natural behavior.

Here are some quick updates on bills CYM will continue to track:

  • House Bill 1156, “Prohibits Conversion Therapy Mental Health Providers,” was heard by the House Public Health Care and Human Services committee on February 28th. It passed the committee and was referred to the Committee as a Whole. We’re one step closer to banning conversion therapy in Colorado! 
  • House Bill 1001, “Parental Involvement K-12 Education Act” has made some progress: it passed the House and was introduced to the Senate on February 24th and assigned to Senate State, Veterans, and Military Affairs. A hearing has been set for March 15th at 1:30pm. 
  • House Bill 1122, “Gender Identification on Birth Certificates,” has no recent updates. This bill, which would make legally changing one’s gender a little less burdensome, is still scheduled to be heard by the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday, March 9th at 1:30pm. Don’t forget to call your representatives and tell them to vote “YES” on this bill. 
  • House Bill 1127, “Exempt Feminine Hygiene Products From Sales Tax,” has no updates, as no hearing data has yet been set. This bill, which CYM will continue to track, would make menstrual products less financially burdensome.

That’s all for this week’s Hap on the Cap! The next blog will be published on March 16th. Please remember, if you feel strongly about any of these bills do not hesitate to call, email, or write to your representative today!

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