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Religious Tolerance logo

Targeting gays and lesbians:

Part 1

1996 U.S. Supreme Court ruling (Romer v. Evans)
overturning an anti-gay Amendment 2 in Colorado.

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bullet "Amendment 2 classifies homosexuals not to further a proper legislative end but to make them unequal to everyone else. This Colorado cannot do. A State cannot so deem a class of persons a stranger to its laws. Amendment 2 violates the Equal Protection Clause..." Justice Kennedy of the U.S. Supreme Court writing for the majority in the Romer v. Evans case of (1996). 1 [Emphasis by us]

bullet "The people of Colorado have adopted an entirely reasonable provision which does not even disfavor homosexuals in any substantive sense, but merely denies them preferential treatment. Amendment 2 is designed to prevent piecemeal deterioration of the sexual morality favored by a majority of Coloradans, and is not only an appropriate means to that legitimate end, but a means that Americans have employed before. Striking it down is an act, not of judicial judgment, but of political will." Justice Scalia, writing for the minority. 1

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Overview of the case:

Many municipalities in Colorado have passed anti-discrimination ordinances which prohibit discrimination based on race, religion, gender, etc. in areas of housing, employment, education, public accommodations, health and welfare services, etc. Some municipalities went further and included sexual orientation in their list of protected classifications.

This gave additional protections to every person in the state, whatever their sexual orientation, whether heterosexual, bisexual or homosexual. All were equally protected.

In 1992, Colorado voters approved Amendment 2 to the state constitution by a  narrow margin (54% to 47%). According to the U.S. Supreme Court decision, it would have prohibited "all legislative, executive, or judicial action at any level of state or local government designed to protect the status of persons based on their 'homosexual, lesbian or bisexual orientation, conduct, practices or relationships'." 2

Some municipalities, civil libertarians, gays and lesbians initiated a lawsuit, "Romer v. Evans, to have the Amendment declared unconstitutional. They sought and received a preliminary injunction from the trial court, thus preventing the Amendment from ever being implemented. The injunction was upheld by the Colorado Supreme Court. The trial court and the Colorado Supreme Court agreed that Amendment 2 infringed the fundamental right of gays and lesbians to participate in the political process. They found that Amendment 2 had violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. A majority of Justices on the U.S. Supreme Court agreed on 1996-MAY-20, and the Amendment was history. The vote was 6 to 3, with Justices Scalia, Rehnquist and Thomas dissenting. These were the identical three judges who dissented in the Lawrence v. Texas case in 2003-JUN.

A number of projects underway in other states, which might have resulted in similar Propositions and Amendments being passed, were abandoned because of this ruling.

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Anti-discrimination ordinances:

"In early 1991, a group of citizens in Colorado Springs became concerned over the passage of local ordinances in several Colorado municipalities." 3 Prime examples were the cities of Aspen, Boulder, and Denver which prohibited discrimination based on the basis of a person's sexual orientation in employment, housing and public accommodations.  Other items of concern were at the State level. For example:

bullet Governor's Executive Order No. D0035 (1990-DEC-10) which prohibited employment discrimination for "all state employees, classified and exempt" on the basis of sexual orientation.

bullet Colorado Insurance Code, (1992 Supp.) which forbade health insurance providers from determining insurability and premiums based on an applicant's, a beneficiary's, or an insured's sexual orientation. 2

bullet Metropolitan State College of Denver prohibits college sponsored social clubs from discriminating in membership on the basis of sexual orientation.

bullet Colorado State University has an antidiscrimination policy which encompasses sexual orientation. 1

Will Perkins and other conservative Christians formed a group called Colorado for Family Values. Their prime goal was to repeal all such laws and regulations. The fundamentalist Christian group, Focus on the Family, located in Colorado Springs, CO gave a donation to CFV. Focus was one of five conservative Christian para-church groups represented on the CFV board. 4,5

There were two conflicting interpretations circulating in Colorado about these ordinances, state laws and executive orders:

bullet Colorado for Family Values and other religious conservatives described the regulations as granting "minority status protections to homosexuals, not granted to any other citizens." 3 That is, the regulations gave special privileges to gays and lesbians that were denied the heterosexual majority, and the bisexual minority.

bullet Gays, lesbians, the U.S. Supreme Court and others held an opposing view: that these ordinances and laws protect everyone from any discrimination that they might suffer because of their sexual orientation. Specifically, it protects:

bullet Heterosexuals -- the majority of adults who are sexually attracted to members of the opposite gender,

bullet Homosexuals -- a minority of adults who are attracted to persons of the same gender, and

bullet Bisexuals -- a smaller minority who are attracted to persons of both genders, although not necessarily to the same degree.

Thus, heterosexuals, homosexuals and bisexuals are all protected to the same degree.

Since terms such as homosexual, lesbian, gay and bisexual do not appear anywhere in the regulations, it seems that the interpretation by homosexuals and the courts is correct: homosexuals and bisexuals were not given any special privileges by these regulations. The conservative Christians were factually incorrect.

However, Christian groups conducted a masterful advertising campaign. The author of this essay was in Colorado at during the lead-up to the Amendment 2 plebiscite and noted that many people -- of all religious persuasions -- honestly believed that gays and lesbians were seeking or were being given special privileges in the state.

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Amendment 2:

In 1991-AUG, the CFV, aided by the Fundamentalist Christian National Legal Foundation, wrote a proposed amendment to the state constitution. It said:

"No Protected Status Based on Homosexual, Lesbian, or Bisexual Orientation. Neither the State of Colorado, through any of its branches or departments, nor any of its agencies, political subdivisions, municipalities or school districts, shall enact, adopt or enforce any statute, regulation, ordinance or policy whereby homosexual, lesbian or bisexual orientation, conduct, practices or relationships shall constitute or otherwise be the basis of or entitle any person or class of persons to have or claim any minority status, quota preferences, protected status or claim of discrimination. This Section of the Constitution shall be in all respects self-executing." 2

It is obvious that the scope of the Amendment -- in the words of the U.S. Supreme Court :

"...does more than repeal or rescind these provisions. It prohibits all legislative, executive or judicial action at any level of state or local government designed to protect the named class, a class we shall refer to as homosexual persons or gays and lesbians."

Amendment 2 would have:

bullet Repealed all existing municipal and country ordinances, state laws, and Executive orders, school board policies, library policies, etc. which protected persons from discrimination on the basis of their sexual orientation.

bullet Repealed any regulations which protected homosexuals or bisexuals. This is a theoretical possibility, because no such regulations are believed to have existed at that time or exist today.

bullet Prevented any new regulations from being passed and implemented that would have protected anyone from discrimination because of their sexual orientation.

bullet Allowed regulations to be passed and implemented which gave special privileges to heterosexuals.

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Discussion of this topic continues in the next essay

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
The case's syllabus, majority opinion and dissenting opinion are online at:

  1. The text of the Supreme Court decision in Romer v. Evan is online at:
  2. "Roy Romer, Governor of Colorado v. Richard G. Evans..." National Legal Foundation, at:
  3. Brian McKinley, "Why Focus on the Family is of the Devil," at:
  4. Don Romesburg, "James Dobson's darker side: A carefully kept secret. U.S. News and World Report cover-Story fails to expose It," GayToday, at:
  5. Michael Booth, "When 'hate' became resolve. State's Amendment 2 led to gay protections," Denver Post, 2002-SEP-29, at:

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Copyright © 2003 to 2012 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2003-JUL-7
Latest update: 2012-FEB-12
Author: B.A. Robinson

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