Shooting Makes Colorado Springs Ponder Its Past and Present

The law led to a boycott of the city by some progressive groups, which branded Colorado Springs “the hate city.” The new law was quickly overturned in the courts, but in many ways, locals say, it had the opposite of its intended effect, and unified the opposition.

“We realized we could not be complacent; we had to fight against that kind of bigotry and not discriminate,” said James White, who was pastor of the city’s First Congregationalist Church during the 1990s and opposed the discriminatory amendment. “We had to come together and speak out.”

Supporters of gay rights formed newsletters, clubs, interfaith gatherings, marches and philanthropic funds, all aimed at fostering diversity.

“It made a huge difference,” said Mary Lou Makepeace, who served as the city’s mayor from 1997 to 2003. “The things people used to say, they don’t say anymore. They’d be shunned.”

Pushing the city to be more inclusive wasn’t always easy, she said. She received blistering criticism when she signed the first city proclamation recognizing an annual gay-pride week in 1999. But she noted, the city has changed. She pointed to a plan this week to hang a giant rainbow flag on City Hall in remembrance of those killed at Club Q. “That shows how far we’ve come,” she said.

Other factors also shifted the city’s tone. The population is now 480,000, the result of an enormous influx of newcomers, many from the coasts, who have helped create a more diverse community.

At the same time, the stance of many Christians started to shift. A number of prominent churches in the city split over questions of gay rights. The generation of leaders who opposed what they called “the gay agenda,” including Mr. Dobson, retired, and new leaders often took a more measured approach.

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