COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Colorado Springs was once known as the ‘city of hate’ after a movement was born there to block LGBTQ+ rights in the early 1990s.
LGBTQ+ advocates said the city has come a long way since then, but the shooting at Club Q shows there’s still a lot of work left to do.
"We want people to feel safe," said Richard Skorman, co-owner of Poor Richard’s restaurant and a former Colorado Springs city council member. "We are a place where everybody is welcome."
The Pride flags flying outside Poor Richard’s in downtown Colorado Springs are not new. But this week, they’ve become more important than ever.
Skorman opened a shop nearly five decades ago. He remembered how different his city used to be.
"Colorado was the 'hate state.' There was a national boycott. Then there was a national boycott of Colorado Springs in particular. We were the 'hate city' in the 'hate state,'" said Skorman. "This is where Amendment 2 originated. Colorado For Family Values was from Colorado Springs."
In the early 1990s religious groups in Colorado Springs started a movement to change the state constitution. Amendment 2 was passed by voters around the state in 1992, making it illegal to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation.
"In housing, in employment, and public accommodations. If someone happened to be LGBTQ and walked into a hotel, they could be denied a room," said Skorman.
While Amendment 2 was passed in 1992 by Colorado voters, it never actually went into effect. After years of legal battle, the United States Supreme Court deemed it unconstitutional and a violation of the 14th amendment.
Skorman was one of the leaders of the movement to oppose Amendment 2. He said Colorado Springs became a scary place to live.
"It unleashed all these people that had their fears and their prejudices and their hate," said Skorman. "They were out in front of our business, they were harassing other businesses. We had a brick thrown through our window with a note on it saying ‘It’s Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.’ Death threats regularly."
Three decades can make a big difference.
There’s a new flag flying in Colorado Springs. This one hangs on the building Richard spent more than a decade in as a city council member.
The flag's a symbol of how much the city has changed and how much work is still left to be done.
"We’ve come so far. Today they put a rainbow flag across city hall," said Skorman. "And then to have this happen last Saturday night, it’s been a real blow for many of us."
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