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Long and winding road reaches its rainbow

City Sage



"Did you ever expect to see this in your lifetime?" asked my Colorado Springs Business Journal colleague Cameron Moix, 25. "I thought I'd be your age [in other words, 74] before I saw it."

No, I didn't expect to see it. When news came last week of the Supreme Court's decision to allow same-sex marriages in all 50 states, my eyes were full of tears as I thought of the long, difficult road that LGBT people nationwide have traveled during my lifetime, and I rejoiced. I thought particularly of the dark days after Colorado voters approved Amendment 2 to the state constitution in 1992.

I remember the principled courage of Richard Skorman, Carolyn Cathey, David Sellon, Christy Le Lait, Frank Whitworth, Kathryn Eastburn, Amy Divine, Nori Rost and so many others, who fought for what the amendment attempted to deny: equal protection under the law.

Amendment 2 was conceived in Colorado Springs by an ad hoc coalition of social conservatives. Inspired in part by the relocation of Focus on the Family to Colorado Springs, a group calling itself "Colorado for Family Values" was created locally. Headed by auto dealer Will Perkins, CFV took aim at the "radical homosexual agenda." Aided by national groups, Perkins and his allies sought to amend the Colorado constitution by adding these words:

Neither the State of Colorado, through any of its branches or departments, nor any of its agencies, political subdivisions, municipalities or school districts, shall enact, adopt or enforce any statute, regulation, ordinance or policy whereby homosexual, lesbian or bisexual orientation, conduct, practices or relationships shall constitute or otherwise be the basis of or entitle any person or class of persons to have or claim any minority status, quota preferences, protected status or claim of discrimination.

At the time, I thought CFV was just another crazy fringe group, one of the sad leftovers of the antigay crusades of the 1970s and '80s. Surely no sensible person could believe this crap, though CFV was able to collect enough signatures to get it on the ballot. Supporters such as Focus founder/CEO James Dobson seemed like utter wackos.

In March 1991, Dobson wrote: "There are people in our society who find sexual satisfaction from engaging in intercourse with animals. ... Would anyone suggest that these groups deserve special protection?"

The wackos prevailed, 53-47 percent. But Amendment 2's passage didn't drive the local gay community underground — to the contrary, it became empowered and assertive. CFV and its allies imagined that they had won a great victory, but they were wrong.

In retrospect, November 1992 was high tide for the religious right in Colorado. Democrats, moderate Republicans and independent voters joined together to work for equality, and new voices emerged in Colorado Springs. Citizens Project, formed in 1992 by Amy Divine and Doug Triggs, was one — and this newspaper was another.

"There wouldn't be an Independent without Amendment 2," said Indy publisher John Weiss. "Kat Tudor and Raphi Sassower were so mad at the Gazette for supporting it that they brought me out here to start a competing paper."

The would-be partners soon parted ways, but Weiss eventually partnered with Kathryn Eastburn and the Colorado Springs Independent was born in 1993.

Game on! The progressive community celebrated diversity, fought for equal rights and had fun. Le Lait figured out how to handle anti-gay demonstrators at the annual Pride Parade, using a clever fundraising appeal.

Every year, the same group of lunatics would gather at the corner of Platte and Tejon, bearing signs advising gays and their supporters to repent or burn in Hell. Le Lait asked Pride's core supporters to ante up 5, 10, 15 or 20 bucks per demonstrator. As the event got underway, she approached the group's leader and asked him to round up more demonstrators.

"We get hundreds of dollars for every one of you!" she said, explaining her scheme. "So c'mon, get busy."

Four years after its passage, a 6-3 majority on the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Amendment 2.

"Its sheer breadth is so discontinuous with the reasons offered for it that the amendment seems inexplicable by anything but animus toward the class that it affects..." Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote. "It identifies persons by a single trait and then denies them protection across the board. The resulting disqualification of a class of persons from the right to seek specific protection from the law is unprecedented in our jurisprudence."

Nineteen years later, Kennedy's words last week were just as powerful.

"No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family," he wrote in Obergefell v. Hodges. "In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were."

In dissent, Chief Justice John Roberts said, "...five lawyers have enacted their own version of marriage."

Blame it on Chief Justice John Marshall's 1803 opinion in Marbury v. Madison (5 U.S. 137 1803), which established the basis of judicial review.

"Those, then, who controvert the principle that the Constitution is to be considered in court as a paramount law," Marshall wrote, "are reduced to the necessity of maintaining that courts must close their eyes on the Constitution, and see only the law."

And why do we have a federal Constitution?

" establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity."

Blessings indeed.

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