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Meghan Taylor authors Colorado bill on non-legal name changes

Meghan+Taylor+%2812%29+celebrates+with+the+rest+of+the+COYAC+members+in+the+Colorado+House+of+Representatives+after+the+hearing+of+HB24-1039%3A+Non-Legal+Name+Changes+and+HB24-1040%3A+Gender-Affirming+Health-Care+Provider+Study.+The+bills+were+drafted+all+of+the+legal+language+was+put+down+by+the+Legislative+Council%2C+because+our+job+as+COYAC+members%2C+is+really+to+create+proposals+of+things+that+we+see+you+going+through+our+job+is+not+to+write+the+legal+language+because%2C+unfortunately%2C+something+that+the+COYAC+director+has+reminded+me+many+times%2C+Taylor+said.+When+I+called+her+at+like+9%3A30pm+asking+her+for+help+was+%E2%80%98Meghan+you+do+not+have+a+law+degree%E2%80%99.+Unfortunately%2C+I+do+not.+Im+still+in+high+school.+Its+really+a+pain.+I+wish+I+did.
Susan Taylor
Meghan Taylor (12) celebrates with the rest of the COYAC members in the Colorado House of Representatives after the hearing of HB24-1039: Non-Legal Name Changes and HB24-1040: Gender-Affirming Health-Care Provider Study. “The bills were drafted all of the legal language was put down by the Legislative Council, because our job as COYAC members, is really to create proposals of things that we see you going through our job is not to write the legal language because, unfortunately, something that the COYAC director has reminded me many times,” Taylor said. “When I called her at like 9:30pm asking her for help was ‘Meghan you do not have a law degree’. Unfortunately, I do not. I’m still in high school. It’s really a pain. I wish I did.”

Manitou Springs Senior Meghan Taylor created, proposed and contributed to two bills (HB24-1039: Non-Legal Name Changes & HB24–1040: Gender-Affirming Health-Care Provider Study) with fellow Colorado Youth Advisory Council members over this last year.  The COYAC was created in 2008 after Colorado State Representative Ellen Roberts introduced HB08-1157 to better “examine, evaluate and discuss the issues, interests, and needs affecting Colorado youth now and in the future, and to formally advise and make recommendations to elected officials regarding those issues,” as it says on the COYAC website.

Taylor’s two years as a  COYAC board member have led to these bills and other positional highlights such as being the small group leader in charge of welcoming prospective members, a cultural leader often in charge of setting the tone and opening-remarks, COYAC’s and the Colorado Suicide Prevention Commitee’s youngest representative and co-chair of the Youth-Specific Initiatives Workgroup all while still in her senior year of high school, which can be overwhelming for her.

“I’m still just a senior with senioritis trying to get through the school year,” Taylor said. “I went to the Capital, I defended my bill for two hours, then I went to school the next day. And I was just like, ‘Oh my God, I didn’t do my chemistry homework.’”

Inside the Colorado House of Representatives before the third reading and pass of HB24-1039: Non-Legal Name Changes on March 1. (Meghan Taylor)

Though both bills had her hand in the making, she had control over HB24-1039: Non-Legal Name Changes as the main writer for this bill. “It is for anyone between the ages of 12 and 17, in a public or charter school in the state of Colorado, if they wish to have a non-legal name change to their school,” Taylor said. “So with the policies of the task force being put in place, a student wishing to have an illegal name change would not be required to tell their parents about it due to a lot of things, mostly fear of retaliation from parents against students that could become violent, especially as it affects LGBTQ+ students.”

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In a committee meeting with other members of COYAC to begin drafting their articles, they discussed current events and policies that were important to them and brainstormed. “The idea for nonlegal name changes came because of a student who attempted to have their name legally changed through the school and was unsuccessful until they got a teacher to help them through the process,” Taylor said. “It was still a really difficult process for them to go through, and that really just inspired me when I joined this gender affirming care bill HB24-1040. Is it something that we could standardize and make available to all students so that they don’t have to struggle the same way that he did, and make the process easier overall.”

After the publishing of the work and heading to sessions at both the Colorado House of Representatives and Colorado Senate, the bill received massive media attention from places like Colorado Newsline, The Colorado Sun, KDVR, CPR, and Fox News, presenting many different beliefs regarding the bill.

Meghan Taylor stands on the balcony in the State House overlooking the Denver area before the Senate’s third reading and passing of HB24-1039: Non-Legal Name Changes on April 1. (Senator Janet Buckner)

Making it past the first step, the bill and Taylor moved forward to the next: presenting the bill to the Colorado House of Representatives, which included going through the session, making amendments and listening to public testimonies.

“Every single public testimony was not only against bills in COYAC, but they were very specifically against my bills. I was called a ‘groomer’. I was called a ‘deceitful liar’. I was told that this is violent against parents. I was told that I am forcing children to come out, that I was forcing children to transition, that this bill would force teachers to or that this bill would allow teachers to force transition on students,” Taylor said. “I would just like to say that that’s not going to happen. This bill is really just about love and equality and hope for transgender and gender diverse students who feel like there’s not a lot of hope left for them.”

However, these testimonies did not stop this bill and after the run and pass at the Colorado House of Representatives on March 1, it moved forward in the process to the Senate in April and one step closer to being passed in the State of Colorado.

Although Taylor faced backlash during public testimony on her bill, she also experienced support. “I made some friends while I was there. I met someone from the American Civil Liberties Union and someone from Planned Parenthood, who were representatives from those organizations that had come to support the bill,” Taylor said. “It was really great to hear people from that big organization saying that they were so proud of the work that I had done.”

Fellow COYAC representative and member, Leigh Schimdt, has worked in COYAC with Taylor since her arrival. “Meghan has been vital to COYAC’s work over the last two years. She has brought invaluable knowledge and personal experiences to our work and has taught me so much about connecting with people and bringing energy and enthusiasm to every meeting,” Schmidt said. “I admire Meghan’s willingness to learn and ask questions – she has grown so much since I’ve known her through her curiosity about issues and government.”

COYAC Director Sarah Moss has been beside Taylor the whole way, from her introduction to her soon graduation. “Meghan is thoughtful and caring. Her sense of humor helps break the ice with both her peers and legislators. She demonstrates mature self-awareness, emotional intelligence, and communication,” Moss said. “In an organization full of teenagers who are learning about the legislative process for the first time, Meghan makes COYAC more welcoming and connected when she openly acknowledges her own excitement, fear, overwhelm, or readiness to help more.”

As the Colorado Senate passed the bill on April 1, they now await either signing of the bill by Governor Jared Polis or a move to pass without signature and move forward to the estimated prospects of a summer signing for the bill. But the fall implementation of the next school year isn’t the only mark she’s leaving. “The term ‘chosen name’ is not was not a legal definition in the state of Colorado before this bill. So I added a term in the legal dictionary, which is crazy. That happened,” Taylor said. “I’m just insanely grateful for all the opportunities and I’m very sad that with my graduation I will also be leaving this post but I wouldn’t trade it for anything very, very excited to see what comes next.”

This story was originally published on The Prospector on April 18, 2024.