From the beginning, gay rights proponents have claimed that anti-gay measures like Amendment 2 are driven by individuals and organizations with an exclusive religious agenda, inherently at odds with basic notions of pluralism and political inclusion.
The anti-gay forces' success, therefore, has required establishing political credibility in the mantra "equal rights, not special rights." As important as this claim was during the Amendment 2 campaign, taped sessions and documents from the Colorado for Family Values conference contained no references to this slogan, which was described by many as the genius of Amendment 2. Could it be that this was less about rights and more about a larger objective?
Robert Skolrood, who heads the organization that worked with Colorado for Family Values to draft and defend Amendment 2, prefaced his legal talk by emphasizing, "As you know, it's a spiritual battle and we at the National Legal Foundation use II Corinthians 10:3-5 as our scripture... Although we lead normal human lives, the battle we are fighting is on the spiritual level."
More revealing is the list of "foundational principles" which summarizes the conference. The list appears to be a set of agreed-upon tenets which came out of the group sessions following the presentations.
Objectives include getting elected officials to expose gay-friendly legislation and public policy, eliminating government dollars and resources which are "the result of improper behavior brought on by their lifestyle (ex. AIDS) [sic]," and stressing family values so that "homosexuality would be regarded as a sad pathology by implication." Standing in marked contrast to these principles is item three, which reads simply, "Spiritual revival."
This item may have been inspired by Ron Ray, an active and vociferous critic of gays serving in the military. His presentation included several minutes of a religiously charged rhetoric.
"We're going to have to remember His standard," Ray said. "And then we can have repentance, because the problem is the church... Once we have repentance, we can have revival. Once we have the smoothing of the Holy Spirit, we can have restoration... All of us are working very hard at restoration, and the sad thing is that we're going to be bound by God's objective order.
"Sodomy, Sodom and Gomorrah, means the end or termination point... When you accept it in the law order, they have rendered thy word void, now the Lord will have to move."
Ronald Ray and Bob Skolrood were not alone in drawing on this theme. John Eldridge, who noted that Focus on the Family president James Dobson sees the issue of homosexuality as "one of the key issues of our age," outlined the work that Focus is doing to "raise the consciousness of the vast majority of Christians in the country who are woefully ignorant on these issues." Noting that the church is "slowly waking up," Eldridge promised that evangelical churches would turn "the great ship of evangelism back toward social engagement."
While these comments appear to stray from the conference theme, they bring to light what appears to be a shared motive of exclusion in the name of religion which is often hidden from the debate when the issue of gay rights unfolds in the public arena.
Mike Shaver is director of the Citizens Project in Colorado Springs.