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  • Sasha Issenberg

May 16, 1994: Anti-gay activists meet in Colorado Springs

ON THIS DAY IN 1994...

Photo credit: Flickr/@shankbone

A cadre of anti-gay activists assemble in Colorado Springs for what one journalist called the “first national meeting of its kind” to discuss anti-gay strategy, where conversation quickly turns to marriage.

Those in attendance could claim a series of local victories. Will Perkins and Kevin Tebedo of Colorado for Family Values, which helped to organize the meeting at the Glen Eyrie Conference Center, were driving forces behind Amendment 2, which in 1992 overrode municipal gay-rights laws across the state. (The U.S. Supreme Court, in the case Romer v. Evans, later struck down Amendment 2 as unconstitutional.) A year later, Phil Burress of Ohio’s Citizens for Community Values had helped to pass a Cincinnati ballot measure that reversed a non-discrimination ordinance enacted by city council.

But the most intriguing attendee was Mike Gabbard, a self-described “engimatic Catholic” and minister of bhakti yoga, who had made the trip from Hawaii. There he had been the loudest critic of the legal effort to win equal marriage rights for same-sex couples, which had experienced an unexpected success before the Hawaii Supreme Court in May 1993. The issue would return to trial court, where a single judge could rule that gays and lesbians were free to wed. Then, as Gabbard explained to his mainland allies, what to do with same-sex couples who married in Hawaii would be a problem for the 49 other states and the federal government. “Anyone who’s opposed to the militant homosexual agenda can see this is going to be the issue of the nineties,” Burress would say. “I wouldn’t be surprised if it surpasses abortion.”

A year and a half later, in January 1996, several of those at the Colorado Springs meeting would gather again in Memphis for the National Affairs Briefing, a convention of evangelical conservatives. They launched the National Campaign to Protect Marriage, and decided to use the presidential campaign already underway to win notice in Washington.


The Engagement:
America's Quarter-Century
Struggle Over Same-Sex Marriage

​By Sasha Issenberg

The riveting story of the battles over gay marriage
in the United States – the most important
civil-rights breakthrough of the new millennium.
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