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In Colorado Offices, Coffee Shops, Businesses, Debate Still Rages

May 21, 1996

LAKEWOOD, Colo. (AP) _ For a state that has battled over an anti-gay-rights amendment, the U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down the measure served only to deepen divisions and keep the debate raging.

In the coffee shops and businesses of this Denver suburb, the arguments continued, as they have everywhere in Colorado for the past four years.

``It made me realize how much hatred there is out there, and bigotry,″ said artist Jacqueline Wolber.

Chip Bosman, a sewage company supervisor, had a different view, comparing the high court to a ``dictatorship.″

``The Supreme Court stick their noses into too many things,″ he said.

Colorado constitutional Amendment 2, approved in 1992, banned laws that protect gays from discrimination. But it was never enforced because it was immediately challenged in court by gay men and women as well as three cities that had enacted gay rights ordinances.

In a 6-3 vote Monday, the nation’s high court ruled the measure would deny gays constitutional protection and make them ``unequal to everyone else.″

``Amendment 2 embarrassed me,″ said Richard Wolber, a 59-year-old Lakewood lawyer. ``It was a vicious, cruel act passed ... to get at gays.″

Others said they had nothing against homosexuality but felt gays didn’t deserve special rights.

``My son is chemically imbalanced, perceptually handicapped, and he should have the same rights as the lesbians and everybody else,″ Toula Theos said.

``When I voted for Amendment 2, I voted for equal rights, not less, not more,″ she said. ``That’s the way I understood it. If they can overturn our vote, then I’m not going to vote anymore.″

In the college town of Boulder, the decision had special meaning because the measure would have struck down an existing ordinance here that affirmed civil rights for gays and lesbians.

Matu Eagle embraced her partner, Holly Hutchinson, at a rally celebrating the decision.

``It’s wonderful. It’s a big relief,″ Eagle said. ``I feel more protected as far as having a place to live life decently.″

Similarly across the nation, the reaction was split between those who see a movement for civil rights and others who see a campaign for special rights.

``This is a huge breakthrough,″ exclaimed Beth Barrett, spokeswoman for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force in Washington.

``It’s a victory not just for gays and lesbians but for all who believe in civil rights. It’s another notch for us on the score-card of wins and losses.″

At the heart of the euphoria _ and fear _ is the belief that the Supreme Court ruling will pave the way for other gay-rights victories, particularly same-sex marriages, or make prohibitions more difficult.

``We need to look at our moral situation in this country,″ said state Sen. Ed Gochenour, a Republican from Georgia who helped pass a bill banning gay marriage. ``It is rapidly deteriorating from rulings of the Supreme Court like this one.″

The sentiment was echoed by Lon Mabon, head of the anti-gay Oregon Citizens’ Alliance. ``To one degree or another, the court has really established gay-and-lesbian as a class and not a behavior.″

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