Legalized discrimination didn't fly in Colorado

Thursday, April 28, 2016 2:37 PM

Back in 1992, around 53 percent of Colorado voters approved Amendment 2 to the state constitution, making it illegal for pinko-liberal towns like Boulder and Aspen to ban discrimination against homosexuals.

That brought a hostile reaction from within the state and elsewhere. There were efforts to organize tourist and convention boycotts. Bumper stickers appeared that said "The Hate State," I think on a green and white background that looked like a Colorado license plate.

Another one said "Hate is not a family value," referring to an amendment promoter that called itself Colorado for Family Values. This group warned that homosexuals wanted "special rights," which I took to mean gays and lesbians didn't want to be singled out for legalized discrimination.

The amendment never took effect. Not surprisingly, it was quickly challenged in state court, and a judge blocked its enforcement. It went to the State Supreme Court, then back to the district court where in December 1993, the judge reaffirmed his initial ruling.

Judge Jeffrey Bayless wrote, "If one wished to promote family values, action would be taken that is pro-family rather than anti some other group." He also cited that pesky 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. That's the one that reads that all persons born or naturalized in the U.S. are citizens, and that states cannot deny them equal protections under the law.

The case was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. In May 1996, justices struck down the amendment on a 6-3 vote. The majority opinion again cited the 14th Amendment equal protection clause and rejected the claim that homosexuals wanted special rights.

In recent years as same sex marriage rights expanded, the issue was whether private businesses could deny services for those weddings, based on the owner's religious beliefs. A state court said no, and just this week the State Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal. My thought has been that LGBT organizations should create state and national lists of businesses friendly or not friendly to same sex couples, so those folks can direct their business accordingly.

I mention these because it's déjà vu all over again in North Carolina and Mississippi.

In Mississippi, a new law sanctions business discrimination against gays and lesbians, especially if they want to get married, if the discrimination is based on "sincerely held" religious beliefs.

In North Carolina, they have a new law that seems very similar to Colorado's Amendment 2. I'm hoping it will meet a similar fate. The aspect that seems to be getting the most attention there requires transgender people to use public bathrooms that match their birth gender. I imagine guards stationed at the door to every public bathroom in North Carolina, and you better have your birth certificate with you if you want to use the facilities.

Other Southern red states are considering similar laws. And according to National Public Radio, a group called the American Family Assocation is trying to organize a national boycott of Target because of corporate support of LGBT employees and customers. They should all look back on what has happened in Colorado. The 14th Amendment hasn't changed since then. But maybe it's time for more of those "Hate is not a family value" bumper stickers.