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The Gay Nineties

Since Amendement 2 passed seven years ago, Colorado Springs has learned a lesson in Family Values.

But gay people in Colorado Springs had one secret weapon: CFV's own executive director, Kevin Tebedo. "We used to say that if there was one pile of dung in a field," Whitworth says, "he'd find it and step in it."

According to Whitworth, the biggest turning point was in August 1994, when the city of Manitou Springs was debating its Rainbow Vision Plan, a document that addressed traffic, transportation, land use, public services, parks and recreation, economic development, environmental resources, education and health needs.

Tipped off by the nefarious word "rainbow," which had appeared in New York City's gay-inclusive "rainbow curriculum" and by the fact that the rainbow flag was a symbol of gay liberation, Tebedo embarked on a loud campaign to thwart Manitou Springs's attempts to plan for its future.

Cheers for queers: Frank Whitworth at the bar where he watched election returns on the night Amendment 2 passed.
Cheers for queers: Frank Whitworth at the bar where he watched election returns on the night Amendment 2 passed.
Voice of America?: Colorado for Family Values' Kevin Tebedo.
Voice of America?: Colorado for Family Values' Kevin Tebedo.

Details


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"Fact or Friction"
The ex-gay movement has its straight man -- but ex-ex-gays may have the last laugh.
October 1, 1998
By Ward Harkavy

"Slay It With a Smile,"
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October 3, 1996
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"Although we knew the word 'rainbow'...did not automatically confirm that a homosexual special-rights ordinance was in the works, we felt the context suggested the possibility," CFV declared in its October 1994 newsletter.

"Colorado for Family Values charged into Manitou Springs looking for fairies in every sidewalk crack, and people thought they were crazy," Whitworth says. "Kevin just wouldn't back down. He kept writing letters to the editor about the homosexual agenda."

In response, Manitou Springs City Council members showed up for their meeting dressed in rainbow-colored clothes.

"It was very innocuous -- at least we thought it was -- to use the word 'rainbow.' There was no message there," says Manitou mayor Bill Koerner, who was on the council at the time. "But Kevin took it and ran with it, and it turned into this huge hoot, because he was deadly serious." (Here Koerner begins cracking up.) "The mayor at the time, Bill Ford, was a real Deadhead, and he wore a rainbow-colored Grateful Dead T-shirt. Those of us who didn't have Grateful Dead T-shirts had colorful ties." (Koerner can't stop laughing.) "It was just a reaction to the publicity that Kevin was treating us to, and we said, 'Hey, we're happy to be rainbow -- we're going to play it for all it's worth.' I think Kevin ended up with a huge black eye."

The CFV newsletter blamed Tebedo's humiliation on "a print-bashing of Colorado for Family Values, Executive Director Kevin Tebedo in particular," consisting of "tirade after vicious tirade [that] appeared in the papers from the self-appointed guardians of tolerance and acceptance. They accused CFV of 'paranoia,' of engaging in a 'witch-hunt,' of 'attacking' an innocent community, of the usual 'bigotry' and 'hatred.'"

"It made a laughingstock of Colorado for Family Values," Whitworth says. "This was the crack in the shell. They haven't really won any issue they've promoted since."

And it certainly didn't help their cause when, a year later, Tebedo was championing Colin Cook as an example of how God could change a person from gay to straight. Cook had been a Seventh-Day Adventist minister and founder of Homosexuals Anonymous, which claimed it could convert gays through a twelve-step program; he was an unlicensed "counselor" whose conversion technique included ten-minute hugs and mutual masturbation with the men who sought help from him. After the church pulled its funding from his counseling center in Pennsylvania, Cook moved to Colorado in 1993 and opened FaithQuest Counseling Center, Inc., in Arvada. He soon became a poster boy for CFV. Despite the public release of transcripts from Cook's Colorado counseling sessions that showed he was having phone sex with his male clients, Tebedo fervently defended him: "I've talked to seven of Colin's clients who think he does great work!" Tebedo told a Westword reporter ("Come to Jesus," November 22, 1995).

Tebedo left Colorado for Family Values shortly thereafter, ostensibly because his "personal desire and motivations have expanded beyond the scope of CFV's mission." (He reportedly joined the Patriot movement; his mother, state senator MaryAnne Tebedo, continues to represent Colorado Springs at the State Capitol, where she's been a legislator since 1982.) When Tebedo stepped aside, Perkins issued this statement from CFV: "We applaud Kevin's expanding concerns; however, we must, above all, keep this organization faithful to its roots."

CFV immediately launched a campaign urging local Colorado governments to pass "Community Standards" resolutions stating, among other things, that "It is understood that all citizens of America have equal rights by virtue of their American citizenship; the rights and privileges accorded citizenship do not extend to the behavior of homosexuality. Our community must unconditionally advocate heterosexuality only, through our institutions and policies."

"They couldn't get one government in the state to pass it," Whitworth says.


In May 1997, the Colorado Springs City Council unanimously resolved that "the council will have zero tolerance for any form of discrimination of a racial, ethnic, sexual or religious nature." Fearing that "sexual" might be construed to mean "sexual orientation," CFV wanted to add the parenthetical phrase "(meaning male and female)" to the resolution's wording -- but last December, the organization wasn't able to collect enough signatures to force the issue to a ballot.

The group "ran out of time," Perkins says. "We had some procedural problems that we didn't handle well. It looked like a failure, but that was due to poor administration rather than lack of interest in the issue."

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