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Glenda Russell


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Gov. John Hickenlooper recently signed into law Senate Bill 11, which creates same sex civil unions for gay and lesbian couples. This law joins Colorado with three other states–Illinois, Delaware and Hawaii–as a state that has both a gay marriage ban and a statute allowing for civil unions. As the same-sex marriage debate gains national attention with the Supreme Court hearings, Glenda Russell, a Boulder clinical psychologist, talks to YS  about the history of the movement in Colorado. In her book, Voted Out: The Psychological Consequences of Anti-Gay Politics, Russell has written—and continues to write—about this civil rights movement and its implications. A look at the history of the LGBT movement in Colorado reveals the mobilizing effects of hardship.

In her own words:

On the first signs of LGBT organization in Colorado: It started in a couple different places. One was here on the University of Colorado campus where a group became an official student organization—the Gay Liberation Front. It was the first time in Colorado that large gay events were controlled by and sponsored by actual gay people. … It’s an interesting thing because when you’re in a group about which there are lots of stereotypes, when you don’t know the other members of that group, you buy those stereotypes too. When you actually start meeting the people who are members of that group, it starts to break down the stereotypes that you have as a gay person.

“And I think once the stereotypes start being called into question, people start thinking in terms of possibilities that they never imagined.”

On Amendment 2, the Colorado law passed in 1992 that essentially made it legal to discriminate against the LGBT community: “It rendered people feeling hopeless and psychologically displaced from their communities. There was a great deal of sadness and anger. There was a great deal of mistrust and fear. At the same time, there was … an enormous amount of mobilization.”

On the 1996 Supreme Court case that ruled Amendment 2 unconstitutional: “The Romer decision was the first decision rendered by the U.S. Supreme Court in which gay people were talked about as people, rather than as miscreants engaging in bad behavior. I think peopleboth LGBT people and sexual allieswent from a point of profound hopelessness and fear to a sense of hopefulness and energized mobilization for changing things.”

On the impact of the AIDs epidemic: “I think AIDs in a very sad, paradoxical way helped. AIDs insisted that people who thought they knew no gay people in fact did know gay people. It demonstrated to the world that the LGBT community could take care of one another.”

On religion and the LGBT movement: “Religion has in some quarters fueled some of the bias against LGBT people. It’s also worth noting that religion is not a monolithic entity, and there are people who use their religion as a basis for being allies. … Most of the time when people are using religion, they take the principles  of their religion as opposed to the specific laws. They take the principles of love and inclusion and generosity. …Any election that has occurred in this country, if only the Catholic voters in those jurisdictions had voted, we would have won same-sex marriage. What people in the pews are doing, isn’t necessarily what the hierarchies in various religions are suggesting that they do.

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