As someone who grew up in Colorado Springs without any knowledge of the city’s interesting and expansive queer history, I have decided to put together a makeshift “Queer History in Colorado Springs 101” series for UCCS students interested in learning more about how the city’s dealings with the LGBTQ+ community have developed over time.
I will be starting this series off with the anti-LGBTQ+ rights campaigns that emerged in Colorado Springs during the early ‘90s and maintained state-wide relevance and recognition for years preceding the 1998 murder of Matthew Shepard. Shepard was a gay college student from Wyoming who was beaten and tortured near Laramie and Fort Collins, Colorado.
According to an article from the Washington Post, Colorado Springs has a national reputation for being a famously anti-LGBTQ+ city, as it is “home to dozens of evangelical Christian ministries, some of the nation’s largest evangelical churches and Colorado for Family Values.”
In defiance of Boulder’s and Denver’s efforts to decrease discrimination based on sexual orientation, Colorado for Family Values drafted Amendment 2, which according to the Colorado Encyclopedia was “a ballot initiative passed by … voters in 1992 that prohibited the state from enacting antidiscrimination protections for gays, lesbians, and bisexuals.”
Colorado for Family Values supported the slogan “No Special Rights” during their campaign for Amendment 2 because they believed that LGBTQ+ rights were “special rights” rather than equal rights.
Although Amendment 2 was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 1995, anti-LGBTQ+ rights campaigns continued to emerge throughout Colorado Springs, particularly in Christian circles involved with the organization Focus on the Family, which has publicly denounced marriage equality and is still openly anti-LGBTQ+ today.
Today, many cities in Colorado promote the equal treatment of LGBTQ+ individuals. While Colorado Springs is headed in the right direction when it comes to queer inclusivity with organizations like Inside Out Youth Services, the process is unfortunately a slow one.
In fact, the Supreme Court’s 2018 decision to allow a Colorado Springs baker the right to legally refuse same-sex couples their services reveals that the dehumanization of the LGBTQ+ community is still a prevalent issue in the city today.
That is why it is important for us, as a community, to learn about Colorado Springs’ anti-LGBTQ+ past, and do what we can to reach out to queer people in need of our support and mutual aid.