A Brewing Disagreement

An anti-Coors ad gets canned by a local publication.

Newspapers love advertising -- that's a universal publishing truth. But Out Front Colorado, Denver's best-known gay-oriented newspaper, was far from thrilled with an ad submitted by the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) committee of the National Lawyers Guild -- so much so that the biweekly refused to print it. In turn, the Guild issued a press release taking Out Front to task for its decision. Says San Francisco-based committee chairman Rob Petitpas, "They're selling out -- they're just selling out the community."

Not so, counters Out Front spokesman Roger Moore. "Out Front's owners determined that the content of the National Lawyers Guild's proposed advertisement was inaccurate and misleading, and rejected the ad on that basis," he says.

Why such a heated disagreement? In part because the advertisement takes on one of Colorado's most powerful businesses, the Coors Brewing Company. "The Coors Boycott Continues: Buy a Coors, Coors Light, Killian's Red, Zima, Keystone, Belgian White or Blue Moon and you're supporting anti-gay bigots," the ad begins. "A slick PR campaign has flooded our community with claims that Coors Brewing is now our friend -- that Coors has domestic partner benefits, sponsors LGBT groups and events (usually in return for having the Coors logo prominently displayed), and that there are gay members of the Coors family. Some of this is true, but what they leave out is that the Coors family continues to give millions of dollars to our enemies."

Petitpas didn't initially set out to prick Coors's sensibilities in its own back yard. Last year he was surprised by the company's presence at two Bay Area gay-pride bashes, especially since so many gays there and elsewhere were still participating in the long-running Coors boycott, now deep into its third decade. As pointed out in Westword 's "The Other Coors Spokesman" (September 2, 1999), homosexuals were first asked to steer clear of the brew in 1973, when uncloseted Bay Area politician Harvey Milk made a political deal with local Teamsters, who objected to the outfit's long-held anti-union stance. Thanks to Coors's support of causes viewed by many as homophobic, gays soon made the boycott their own -- and they've kept it alive longer than practically any other group. Twenty years after Milk was murdered by a disturbed associate, Dan White, in 1978, the late man's friends and fans celebrated his legacy by pouring cases of Coors into a gutter.

In an effort to help a new generation of gays understand why they should pick another brand of suds, Petitpas and his cohorts came up with the "Coors Boycott Continues" ad. The Guild eventually paid to publish it in cities such as Los Angeles, Boston, Washington, D.C., and San Francisco, where it was seen by Jon Langoni, currently the proud holder of the title "Mr. Leather Colorado." Unlike Bruce Chopnik, who, as "International Mr. Leather," supported Coors in venues such as the aforementioned Westword article, Langoni has long believed that "it's a bad company."

Langoni was so taken by the ad's message that he contacted Petitpas and recommended that the Guild publish it in Denver. Petitpas was amenable and, at Langoni's suggestion, he contacted Out Front. The Out Front sales representative with whom he spoke raised no objections to the content of the ad, which was co-sponsored by the National Lawyers Guild, Langoni and Pride at Work, a branch of the AFL-CIO. But earlier this month, on the cusp of the ad's scheduled publication, the rep called Petitpas with some unpleasant news. "He said, 'We're not going to run the ad,'" Petitpas remembers. "I asked why, and he said, 'We're just exercising our prerogative not to run the ad,' and that was it. He was nervous on the phone and basically just hung up."

This move caught Langoni off guard: "I'm shocked and amazed that a gay newspaper would discriminate like that," he maintains. Petitpas felt equally upset and fired off a June 13 press release titled "Out Front Colorado Censors Political Ad." The release affirms that the LGBT committee "is disappointed at Out Front Colorado's refusal to run its advertisement educating the queer community on the Coors family's funding of bigoted activities" and suggests that Out Front was motivated by dollar signs. How so? The Guild points to the Colorado Business Council, a gay business collective that features Coors's John Lind on its board of directors, whose April 2002 newsletter announced that Out Front would begin running a regular CBC column. "It seems clear," the release concludes, "that Out Front has a too-cozy relationship with this group, whose purpose is to maximize profits for its members, and has an interest in limiting awareness of any controversial activities."

Out Front publisher Greg Montoya declined to comment on this or any other claim, forwarding all inquiries to Moore, the paper's attorney. Moore avoided answering direct questions as well, choosing instead to read from a prepared text: "Out Front, along with all other newspaper publications, reserves the contractual right with its advertisers to change, amend, delete or reject the content of any advertisement. The National Lawyers Guild representative agreed to these conditions before submitting the proposed advertisement."

Moore continued: "The advertisement blurred the distinction between the constitutionally protected activities of some Coors family members and the Coors Brewing Company, which has over the years taken steps to [bridge] the divide between it and the gay community in the United States."

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