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social sciences

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Coors Brewing Company Boycott

Another significant boycott was that against the Coors Brewing Company. The action was initiated in 1973 by labor unions protesting the company's antagonistic attitude. They were soon joined by gay men and lesbians, African Americans, and Latinos dissatisfied with the corporation's practices.

Glbtq activists were particularly incensed that the brewery put prospective employees through a polygraph test to determine, among other things, if they were homosexual. Not surprisingly, Coors did not have an anti-discrimination policy, and prospective employees discovered to be homosexual were not hired.

Sponsor Message.

To enlist the support of the gay community for the boycott, union officials approached Milk, who agreed to encourage participation in the boycott in exchange for jobs for gay men on Teamsters Union beer trucks.

The Coors boycott was joined by glbtq people across the nation. After several years of ignoring the boycott, the brewing company in 1978 made the minimal concessions of dropping the sexual orientation question from the polygraph test and announcing a non-discrimination policy.

The boycott was still in progress when in 1995 Coors gave domestic partnership benefits to its gay and lesbian employees--a perk already enjoyed by unmarried heterosexual workers living with a person of the opposite sex--and began to court glbtq consumers. Coors became a major sponsor of Denver's PrideFest and began placing ads in publications targeting the glbtq market, including The Advocate.

Mary Cheney, the lesbian daughter of then-Representative (now Vice President) Richard Cheney, was hired as a marketing representative to promote sales in the glbtq community. The Coors Brewing Company also began contributing to glbtq causes and institutions, such as a community center, arts and cultural events, and organizations such as the Human Rights Campaign and the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation. As a result, Coors began gaining glbtq customers, particularly in the Denver area.

The boycott remained strong in other areas of the country, however, as Scott Coors, the openly gay scion of the family, discovered when he attempted to buy a Coors beer in a San Francisco bar in the late 1990s.

At issue for those perpetuating the boycott were the Coors family's foundations, the Adolph Coors Foundation and the Castle Rock Foundation, both of which provide strong financial support to right-wing groups opposed to glbtq rights. Activist Morris Kight, who was among the earliest proponents of the boycott, stated in 2001 that "the issue for us is that the money the family makes off beer is funneled into antigay causes."

The conservative ideology of most of the family came to the fore when Pete Coors entered the Colorado Republican primary race for the United States Senate in 2004. Coors' support for a constitutional amendment against same-sex marriage revived interest in the boycott. In response, the Coors Brewing Company, in ads stating their opposition to the Federal Marriage Amendment, has explicitly disassociated itself from Pete Coors's support for the amendment. (Ironically, Coors' right-wing opponent in the Republican primary, citing Coors Company policies, has accused Coors of "promoting homosexual causes." Coors won the Republican primary, but was defeated in the general election.)

Tourism Boycotts

The lucrative tourism and convention industries are inviting targets when a city or state adopts measures offensive to various constituencies. Arizona's rejection of a Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday led to a six-year boycott of the state by many groups, including the National Football League, which moved the 1993 Super Bowl from Phoenix to the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California.

Before the United States Supreme Court in Lawrence v. Texas (2003) struck down all American sodomy laws, several professional groups refused to meet in states that retained sodomy laws or in cities that did not have anti-discrimination ordinances that protected glbtq people. Many cities adopted anti-discrimination ordinances in order to forestall such boycotts.

In contrast, the city of Cincinnati, Ohio in 1993, with the appoval of 63% of the voters, adopted a charter amendment to ban enactment or enforcement of laws protecting citizens against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. As a consequence, many organizations have refused to hold conventions in the city. In 2004, the Greater Cincinnati Convention and Visitors Bureau reported that the city had lost at least $46.5 million in convention business since the amendment's passage.

In November 2004, voters, at the urging of a broadly-based coalition of civic, business, and religious leaders, repealed the offensive amendment. The Cincinnati city council is expected to adopt an inclusive anti-discrimination ordinance, a move that will likely end the boycott.

Colorado Boycott

Glbtq activists adopted the strategy of a tourism boycott when Colorado voters passed Amendment 2 in 1992. This law prohibited local governments from enacting measures protecting the civil rights of glbtq people with respect to employment and housing, and it repealed ordinances already passed in Denver, Aspen, and Boulder.

As a result of the boycott, thirty-one organizations relocated conventions scheduled for Colorado. These included the American Foundation for AIDS Research, the National Organization for Women, the American Association of Law Libraries, and the National Council for Social Studies.

The organization Boycott Colorado announced an end to its operation when the Colorado state supreme court invalidated Amendment 2 in 1994. That decision was appealed, but in 1996 it was upheld by the United States Supreme Court in Romer v. Evans, a landmark gay rights ruling.

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