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Colorado's anti-gay legislation is spawning imitators.

In some quarters, it is no longer politically correct to ski in Colorado, hold a conference or for that matter do any business in the state. City councils across the nation, movie stars and organizations have called for a boycott of the state since Colorado citizens approved, 53 percent to 47 percent, an amendment to the state constitution in November to forbid the adoption or enforcement of any law that protects people from discrimination based on sexual orientation. Voters in Oregon rejected a similar but more strident ballot measure that would have declared homosexuality "abnormal" and "perverse."

The boycott has already lost the state millions of tourist dollars in canceled conventions (most of them, ironically, scheduled for Denver, which approved a sweeping civil rights ordinance in 1991 and whose voters voted against the amendment) plus at least one film production and the changed plans of unknown numbers of tourists and skiers. Colorado officials shudder at the memory of Arizona's experience after it refused to commemorate Martin Luther King Jr.; that refusal cost the state an estimated $500 million before the holiday was finally proclaimed in 1991.

The Colorado amendment was one of those negatively phrased ballot issues that often confuses voters. It says, "Neither the state...nor any of its political subdivisions...shall enact, adopt or enforce any |law~ whereby homosexual, lesbian or bi-sexual orientation, conduct 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..." Pre-election polls showed a comfortable majority against the proposition. Did voters lie to the pollsters, as some suggest, because they felt guilty about their bigotry? Or did the negative wording leave them confused about which way to vote? Some people certainly voted for it because they believed special privileges should be granted to no class of people.

Denver District Judge Jeff Bayless issued a preliminary injunction Jan. 15 to keep the measure from going into effect, saying, "There is a fundamental right . . . not to have the state endorse and give effect to private biases." He said that the state would have to prove that there was a substantial and compelling governmental interest in the amendment for it to be upheld. The state Supreme Court is not expected to rule before fall.

Religious and conservative groups in 12 states have announced interest in sponsoring a measure similar to Colorado's Amendment 2. The states are California, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Ohio, Oregon and Washington.

Laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation are on the books in six states (Connecticut, Hawaii, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Vermont and Wisconsin) and the District of Columbia and about 110 cities and counties in 25 states. Governors of eight states besides Colorado (California, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Washington) have issued executive orders prohibiting discrimination in state employment on the basis of sexual preference.
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Publication:State Legislatures
Date:Mar 1, 1993
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