The Gay Nineties

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

Eleven new Food for Thought groups are starting this year -- seven years after the passage of Amendment 2. And clearly, the town still needs them. After an article about the Gill Foundation's study appeared in the Colorado Springs Gazette, "the letters to the editor were of the tone that how dare we think of Colorado Springs as more tolerant," Pitts says.

In fact, as gays have made progress in Colorado Springs, the Christian presence has continued to grow as well -- and no one doubts the potential political power that can be raised out of a captive audience on a Sunday morning. The International Bible Society lists 79 evangelical Christian ministries headquartered in Colorado Springs, supplemented by six Christian radio stations and 31 Christian ministries with a "presence" there. Focus on the Family just spent $15.6 million adding a new, 135,000-square-foot building to its 81-acre campus; its workforce has grown to 1,396 people with a payroll of $36 million, making it one of the largest employers in town. Focus on the Family weighed in very publicly on the local gay-rights situation at the end of August, when national, gay-friendly religious leaders held a roundtable in Colorado Springs and invited Focus representatives to attend. But when they showed up with a contingent of "ex-gays," the response was less than Christian. Focus then ran a full-page ad in the Gazette, featuring a photograph of ten "ex-gays" and their children, along with this message: "Our sincerest desire is to offer the message of hope that's being silenced today: there is freedom from homosexuality through the unconditional love and grace of Jesus Christ. You can change into a new creation -- the one God intended."

In case gays don't convert quickly enough, last month Chuck Gosnell, president of the Christian Coalition of Colorado, announced that since Makepeace had "come out of the closet to promote her radical homosexual agenda," the CCC was launching a campaign to "mobilize citizens to stand against what our mayor is doing." The CCC is the state affiliate of the national Christian Coalition and is "dedicated to giving Christians a voice in government again." In his announcement, Gosnell wrote that CCC "is prepared to...create a ballot initiative for passage in 2000 to decisively stop the pro-homosexual agenda in our city. Unlike Amendment 2, the US Supreme Court has already approved the wording we will use, and close to 80% have said they would vote for such a measure."

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.


Previous Westword articles

"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,"
Paul Cameron's mission to stop homosexuality is hard to swallow.
October 3, 1996
By Ward Harkavy

Gosnell was referring to Issue 3, an Amendment 2-like initiative passed by Cincinnati voters in 1993. Gay activists challenged the issue in court and, after a series of reversals at the circuit and federal levels, the Supreme Court last year declined to issue a ruling -- thereby letting stand a 1997 federal appeals court's decision upholding the city's ban on "minority or protected status, quota preference or other preferential treatment" for gays. Members of Colorado for Family Values reportedly sent their brothers and sisters in Cincinnati $390,000 to help get the initiative passed.

Only those members of CFV who are busy secretly "restructuring" their organization know whether they'll ever be able to raise that kind of cash again. But even Kevin Tebedo concedes that as far as Colorado for Family Values goes, "they don't have the impact they used to." Colorado Springs, he tells Westword, is "much more liberal, much, much more liberal. The homosexual political lobby most definitely has a stronger foothold than it did five years ago. Colorado Springs is becoming a big liberal city, in my book. The homosexual political lobby targeted Colorado Springs as ground zero, and they moved in here. They followed Focus on the Family because Focus is the major nemesis of the homosexual political lobby. This is where they came to set up shop.

"There isn't much organized opposition," he adds. "See, that's what Colorado for Family Values was, but that's pretty much faded away. In many ways Romer vs. Evans was to the homosexual political lobby what Roe vs. Wade is to abortion. And Colorado for Family Values fought hard. We felt like giving homosexuality a protected status is wrong; we would still believe it was wrong. But it went to highest court in the land, which said it was unconstitutional. We thought that was ludicrous, but that's what they said. That took a lot of the wind out of the sails of a lot of folks.

"CFV had a hard time after that trying to get its feet back beneath it, trying to grasp a solid hold onto a cause or find something else, and they didn't make it very good," he continues. "They're not dead in the water -- they're still there, they have money and donors that are working with them. Who knows what can happen -- there's still plenty of need for good strong conservative leaders, an organization that will stand up and not let the homosexual political lobby turn this into another Seattle or Miami or Denver." (Tebedo is still politically active; a member of the state Republican Party and a precinct committeeman, he serves on a county-appointed Department of Human Services committee, and it's rumored that he plans to run for Ray Powers's Senate seat. But Tebedo says that for now, he just wants to spend some time running his roofing business and raising his kids.)

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