Colorado's attorney general goes to court Tuesday to try to prove homosexuals in her state face no discrimination, have plenty of political clout and are free to change their sexual proclivities

10/11 Copyright 1993. The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. With
Permission.

DENVER (AP) -- Colorado's attorney general goes to court Tuesday to try to
prove homosexuals in her state face no discrimination, have plenty of
political clout and are free to change their sexual proclivities -- all of
which would disqualify them from state constitutional protection.

The state is defending its new amendment, which would ban state and local laws
prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation. It also would cancel
existing gay rights ordinances in Aspen, Boulder and Denver.

The legal challenge to Amendment 2 was originally brought by a coalition of
those three cities and nine individuals who believe the law is
unconstitutional. Amendment 2, passed by voters last November, was scheduled
to take effect Jan. 15, but Denver District Judge Jeffrey Bayless issued a
preliminary injunction, saying there was a good chance the law would not pass
constitutional muster.

The state Supreme Court upheld Bayless' injunction in May, saying the law
probably violates the U.S. Constitution's 14th Amendment, which forbids denial
of equal rights to any person.

Attorney General Gale Norton told The Associated Press the issue was whether
homosexuals can claim to be an identifiable group, or "suspect class," whose
constitutional rights have been trampled -- such as those hurt by racist
voting and housing laws.

To qualify for constitutional protection, she said, there has to be a history
of discrimination, the group has to be incapable of changing its status, and
it must be politically powerless, all of which the state of Colorado is
challenging in the case of homosexuals.

"The issue here is whether homosexuality is a suspect class," she said. "That
will be one of the issues at trial."

Boulder attorney Jean Dubofsky, representing the coalition, said she will
produce witnesses who will show there is a history of discrimination against
homosexuals, that sexual orientation is established at an early age, and that
gays and lesbians cannot change their status.

"Amendment 2 itself is proof of the political powerlessness of this group,"
she said.

The battle has attracted nationwide attention, especially from cities
considering similar amendments. A group called Boycott Colorado was formed to
put political and economic pressure on the state to wipe the measure from the
books.

Those efforts have cost the state $40 million to $120 million in future
conventions, depending on whose estimate is used. They failed, however, to
dent Colorado's huge tourism industry, even with a few Hollywood celebrities
forgoing their customary ski vacations to Aspen.

Norton has appealed the Colorado Supreme Court ruling to the U.S. Supreme
Court, which has not decided whether to take the case. She said the issue
could end up before Congress, which may have to decide whether to add
protection of homosexuals to the federal Civil Rights Act.

Dubofsky said the issue is local and should be decided city by city, not by
Congress.

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10/12 Copyright 1993. The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. With
Permission

DENVER (AP) -- Supporters of Amendment 2 wanted to send a message to
homosexuals that "we just don't like them," an attorney argued Tuesday at the
start of a trial on the constitutionality of the state's anti-gay rights law.

Attorneys for the state are defending the law, trying to prove gays should not
be a protected class, that they have political clout and that they may change
their sexual proclivity.

A coalition of cities and individuals challenged Amendment 2, saying
individual or group rights can't be infringed upon because a majority of
citizens want it so.

The trial will be closely watched as witnesses for both sides were expected to
testify on the sociology, economics and political power of the gay rights
movement.

Mayor Wellington Webb, the first witness called Tuesday, acknowledged that
Amendment 2 doesn't prevent homosexuals from voting. But he said its passage
"denied them protection against discrimination in the cities in which they
reside."

He said every individual and group deserves protection from discrimination.
Jack Wesoky, an assistant state attorney general, asked if the protection
extended to "short, bald guys," and Webb replied, "Yes, if they are being
discriminated against."

Webb had been expected to testify about Denver's gay-rights ordinance, but the
issue was only touched on briefly.

LeAnna Ware of the Wisconsin Civil Rights Bureau testified that about 100 of
8,000 complaints received by her agency every year pertain to discrimination
based on sexual orientation. Wisconsin has a gay rights law.

She said the number of complaints required at least one additional employee to
process them.

Coalition lawyer Greg Eurich said Amendment 2 supporters are trying to tell
homosexuals: "We just don't like them."

"We are not asking you to protect against discrimination," he told Bayless in
opening arguments. "We're only asking that gays and lesbians be allowed to
seek that kind of protection (against discrimination)."

Colorado voters approved Amendment 2 in November. The law was to take effect
in January, but Denver District Judge Jeffrey Bayless delayed its
implementation pending the trial.

In putting the law on hold, Bayless said it likely violates the Constitution's
equal protection clause. The Colorado Supreme Court upheld his ruling delaying
the law, but in the meantime the state is appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Testimony in Denver District Court was to continue Wednesday.


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