As Colorado Swears In An Openly Gay Governor, How One Couple Quietly Changed Minds On LGBT Issues

December 13, 2018
Photo: Tim Gill Scott Miller 20181207 HV
Scott Miller, left, and Tim Gill at the CPR studios Friday Dec. 7, 2018.

The fight for LGBT rights in Colorado, as in most states, has seen victories and setbacks.

Bearing witness to much of that are Tim Gill and his husband Scott Miller, co-chairs of The Gill Foundation. Gill created the nonprofit in 1994 after Coloradans passed Amendment 2, which outlawed civil rights protections for gays and lesbians.

The law earned Colorado the nickname, "the hate state.” Its passage felt personal to Gill, the founder of a software company called Quark.

"I remember getting angry, I remember getting depressed," Gill said. "I remember thinking that 53 percent [of Coloradans voted to pass Amendment 2], so presumably, we had 300 employees in Colorado. I know a number of them voted for Amendment 2. They voted against the civil rights of the person that was paying their salaries and the civil rights of people who were their coworkers."

To combat the hate state reputation, Gill started advocating for LGBT rights through philanthropy and political. By donating to mainstream causes under the moniker "Gay and Lesbian Fund for Colorado," Miller said the community learned to accept LGBT people and see them more fully.

Early on, some organizations rejected the money instead of having the name on their donor list. At the time, two-thirds of Coloradans said they didn't know a gay or lesbian person.

"In so many ways, it forced local communities and organizations to reconcile how they felt about LGBT rights," Miller said. "I think when people have to have a conversation, when they have to reconcile what their beliefs are, that's the greatest impact I think we've had over the 25 years of the foundation."

To date, the Gill Foundation has donated $345 million philanthropically and another $100 million towards political causes. (The foundation is a supporter of Colorado Public Radio.)

In 1996, the US Supreme Court struck down Amendment 2. The battle for same-sex marriage followed. This year, Colorado elected the country's first openly gay man as governor.