Pope to attend Colorado gathering in Aug. despite boycott of state

January 12, 1993|By Frank P. L. Somerville | Frank P. L. Somerville,Staff Writer

Pope John Paul II, who has been planning since last spring to be in Denver in August for an international gathering of Roman Catholic youth, will not join the protest against Colorado voters' passage of anti-gay rights legislation, his spokesmen said yesterday.

The pope's decision to stick to his travel plans and not back the pro-gay boycott was announced by Baltimore Archbishop William H. Keeler and Denver Archbishop J. Francis Stafford.

Archbishop Keeler is president of the corporate group sponsoring the Aug. 11-15 event in Denver, World Youth Day '93. Archbishop Stafford, a former auxiliary bishop of Baltimore, is vice president.

"We have been asked about the potential effects on World Youth Day of calls for a boycott of Colorado's tourism and convention facilities to protest passage of Amendment 2," the two archbishops said in a joint statement.

Noting that the pope had announced on Palm Sunday -- April 12 -- that he was convening Catholic teen-agers and young adults in Colorado, the archbishops said the event "will bring together LTC young people of different nations, views and political persuasions."

It is "an opportunity to celebrate what all men and women have in common, the right to be respected as persons created by a loving God," they said. "It is our hope that no one would try to use the event for any other purpose."

Approved Nov. 3 by 54 percent of Colorado's voters, Amendment 2 forbids the state and its local governments from passing laws banning discrimination based on sexual orientation. It repeals gay-rights laws in Denver, Boulder and Aspen.

Gays and lesbians have promoted the boycott of Colorado's vacation and convention facilities to protest the new law.

"We pray that the upcoming celebration in Denver will be an occasion of grace, of healing and of reconciliation, and -- with God's help and the good will of all -- we are confident it will be," the two archbishops said yesterday.

In the first test of a new state law banning a protected status for homosexuals, a Denver judge heard opening arguments yesterday in a case that will determine whether Amendment 2 will go into effect on Friday.

The amendment is being challenged by a coalition of cities -- Denver, Aspen and Boulder -- and nine residents, including professional tennis player Martina Navratilova.

They argued that the amendment relegates homosexuals to second-class citizenship and puts them in immediate danger of being fired or evicted because of their sexual orientation. They want Denver District Court Judge Jeffrey Bayless to halt the enactment of the law pending a separate trial on its constitutionality.

The boycott has already cost Colorado up to $20 million in canceled conventions and vacations.

The Los Angeles Times contributed to this article.

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