Shades of gay: Prop. 8 boycotts recall post-Amendment 2 anger over Colorado

Don’t ski here, don’t hike here, don’t convention here, don’t come here. That was the message, coming from the higher echelons of Hollywood, indeed from gays and lesbians and their friends across the country, in the weeks after Colorado became the “Hate State” and Colorado Springs the “Belly of the Beast” when Colorado voters approved Amendment 2 in 1992. Now post-Proposition 8, California and even Utah have found themselves the targets of even more sophisticated boycott efforts.

The Associated Press notes that Utah is home to the Sundance Film Festival, world-class skiing, $6 billion a year worth of tourism dollars — and the Mormon Church, which aggressively promoted California’s Prop. 8 to ban gay marriage. Now gays and their friends are calling for a boycott there, as well as in California, whose voters approved the measure.

“At a fundamental level, the Utah Mormons crossed the line on this one,” said gay rights activist John Aravosis, an influential blogger in Washington, D.C.

“They just took marriage away from 20,000 couples and made their children bastards,” he said. “You don’t do that and get away with it.”

Such anger was common after Colorado voters passed Amendment 2 in Colorado, to prohibit gays and lesbians from seeking legal protections, and in effect repealing gay-rights laws that were in place in Denver, Aspen and Boulder.

Among the more high-profile celebrities calling for a boycott were Martina Navratilova, Barbra Streisand and Elizabeth Taylor. As The Progressive reported in January 1993 dozens of stars and business groups canceled concerts, benefits and conferences that had been scheduled in Colorado.

The Colorado Bar Association cancelled a conference at the 5-Star Broadmoor resort in Colorado Springs, birthplace of Amendment 2’s sponsoring group, after the mayor refused to extend an invitation to the association’s gay and lesbian members: “You mean I have to invite the queers?” was the famous utterance of then-Mayor Bob Isaac. The group ultimately did reinstate the conference, after Isaac assured them that everyone was welcome in his hometown.

The financial impacts of the boycott in Colorado was impossible to fully tally; the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Amendment 2 unconstitutional four years later.

By contrast, the online ease by which people can now view campaign supporters has made it easy for opponents to target contributors to this year’s Proposition 8. Among just the restaurants targeted so far as a result of California’s Prop. 8: The L.A. institution El Coyote, El Pollo Loco, Burger King, Outback Steakhouse and the Yard House.

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Cara Degette

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