Rocky Mountain News again ID'd anti-gay rights activist only as a retired "car dealer"

››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

In an article about the results of petition drives to put initiatives involving same-sex unions on the November ballot, the Rocky Mountain News once again failed to completely identify Will Perkins, referring to him only as a "a retired car dealer from Colorado Springs," without noting that he is a longtime activist against gay rights.

In an August 8 article about the results of petition drives to put measures involving gay unions on the November ballot, Rocky Mountain News reporter Myung Oak Kim again failed to identify Will Perkins as a longtime activist against gay rights -- repeating an omission that Colorado Media Matters noted Kim made in a July 24 article. In the August 8 article, Kim referred to Perkins only as "a retired car dealer from Colorado Springs." Similarly, in the July 24 article, Kim identified Perkins only as a "former Colorado Springs car dealer." Both articles reported on an initiative that Perkins, along with state Rep. Kevin Lundberg (R-Berthoud), had backed to amend the Colorado Constitution to prohibit the state from creating domestic partnerships "similar to that of marriage." The initiative -- which Perkins and Lundberg abandoned because they did not collect enough signatures -- was an attempt to trump a referendum already placed on the ballot by the Colorado legislature that would allow same-sex couples to register as "domestic partner[s]," entitling them to certain benefits and rights.

Kim did not note that as chairman of Colorado for Family Values, Perkins led a 1992 campaign to amend the Colorado Constitution to prohibit state or local governments from barring discrimination based on sexual orientation. That 1992 initiative, Amendment 2, passed, but the U.S. Supreme Court struck it down in 1996. The court ruled that Amendment 2 violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution because it "classifie[d] homosexuals ... to make them unequal to everyone else."

The News has previously reported Perkins's role in the Amendment 2 campaign. In an April 26 article, reporter Kevin Flynn noted that the now-defunct initiative to ban domestic partnerships "is backed by Will Perkins, author of ill-fated Amendment 2." And on May 13, Kim reported that "Perkins, the former car dealer from Colorado Springs and Amendment 2 spokesman, has resurfaced as a sponsor of a new initiative, aimed at the November ballot, to deny legal recognition of civil unions or domestic partnerships."

From Kim's August 8 Rocky Mountain News article, "1 less initiative on gay unions":

But a fourth measure that sought to ban legal recognition of gay unions won't make it. Backers of that initiative, state Rep. Kevin Lund-berg, R-Berthoud, and Will Perkins, a retired car dealer from Colorado Springs, failed to get enough signatures, Lundberg said.

Lundberg, who ran the campaign through a group called Protecting Colorado Children, said he decided to abandon the effort Monday morning. He would not say how many signatures his volunteers collected.

Lundberg said he will consider pursuing the initiative in the future, but will focus now on fighting Referendum I and supporting the marriage amendment.

"I want the people of Colorado . . . to thoroughly understand what domestic partnerships are and how . . . they really are a replacement for marriage," Lundberg said.

Focus on the Family, the Colorado Springs ministry, heavily supported the Lundberg/Perkins measure and the marriage amendment and had already committed $500,000 to campaign for both measures in the fall.

Jim Pfaff, a Focus official, said he's disappointed about the Lundberg measure's failure and expects a "highly charged battle" over the other three initiatives.

The gay-rights camp will campaign both for Referendum I and for their own initiative, which was meant to counter the Lundberg/Perkins measure.

Backers had planned to drop their initiative campaign if Lundberg/Perkins derailed. But they decided Monday morning to move ahead to protect against unexpected legal maneuvers.

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