IFAS | Freedom Writer | December 1994 | colorado.html

Colorado says no to bigots

On October 11, 1994, the Religious Right's agenda of depriving gay people from discrimination in jobs and housing suffered a crushing blow.

In a 6-1 ruling, the Colorado Supreme Court declared the state's anti-gay rights measure, Amendment 2, unconstitutional. The court held that Amendment 2 bars homosexuals from "having an effective voice in government affairs" because they are prohibited from seeking legislation that would protect them from discrimination.

The decision marked the first time that the highest court of any state had found it unconstitutional to deny certain rights to homosexuals.

State Attorney General Gayle Norton said Colorado would appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing that the decision had "troubling implications for the right to vote." Norton appears to have forgotten that fundamental rights are not subject to popular vote.

Exhibiting ignorance commonplace within the radical Religious Right, Focus on the Family's Pastor's Weekly Briefing wrote: "How an amendment legally passed by voters two years ago, could be unconstitutional was not explained."

Since Amendment 2 was passed in 1992, civil liberties groups and gay rights groups around the nation called for a boycott of Colorado. By the state's own estimate, it lost about $40 million in convention and tourist business as a result.

Fortunately, Amendment 2 was never in force because a lower court had issued an injunction against it. Unfortunately, other ballot initiatives modeled on Colorado's law have been put forward in at least eight states including Arizona, Florida, Idaho, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, Oregon and Washington. Of those states, initiatives were successful in reaching the voters in Idaho and Oregon. The election results were not in at press time.

© 1998 Institute for First Amendment Studies, Inc.