- Citizens Project was founded by Amy Divine and Doug Triggs. About its beginning Amy writes, “The seed of Citizens Project began one morning over bagels and The Gazette at our kitchen table. Amendment 2 was on the horizon, at that point without organized opposition. And we just read that the Pagan speaker on a diversity panel had been uninvited after a local radio program had received eight complaining calls. I thought, ‘If we can generate some calls in response, maybe another view can be heard.’ The idea for Citizens Project was born.” With the help of Richard Skorman they created a small group dedicated the tiny organization (July 4, 1992), the calls began to flood in. Amy and Doug took hundreds of calls that weekend, and that was the real birth of Citizens Project.
- In November 1992, with a 53 percent majority, Colorado voters approved the notorious Amendment 2. This measure, written by religious fundamentalists in Colorado Springs, would have amended the Colorado Constitution by making it illegal for governments to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation. Citizens Project became the vehicle for the community voice to promote the values of inclusion, diversity and tolerance.
- Citizens Project publishes its first Candidate Survey, featuring Colorado Springs City Council candidates. Since then, Citizens Project has distributed candidate surveys every local election, establishing itself as an indispensable resource for civic engagement.
- Fine Arts Center general meeting- Thus nearly mythic meeting attracted between 400-800 (reports varied) residents, who supported tolerance, diversity and equality in our community. At subsequent meetings attendees broke into neighborhood groups, establishing the foundation for Citizens Project’s broad citizen activist network for years to come. Members monitored local schools and other community institutions to guard against attacks on diversity, tolerance and help safeguard the traditional values of pluralism.
- Citizens Project developed its first Mission and Vision statements: “Our vision is to create a community working beyond ignorance and prejudice where differences are respected, individual rights protected, and diversity is celebrated. Our mission is to uphold the ‘traditional American values of pluralism, freedom of religion and separation of church and state.”
- 40 People attend first round of Dialogue Dinners. These groups were made up of equal numbered of “orthodox” conservatives and “progressive” participants with the goal of bringing people together to share differing views. (Many years later some of these groups stayed in touch and continued meeting, while others disbanded.)
- Citizens Project has main article on “Celebrate Diversity!” in The Independent newspaper and distributes about 15,000 Celebrate Diversity bumper stickers. The news is covered and mentioned in The Independent and The Progressive magazine.
- Human Relations Commission- Amy Divine, Bill Huddy, and Pat Tolle met representatives of other organizations concerned with minority issues in Pikes Peak region and initiate a letter and phone campaign to Colorado Springs City Council in support of Human Relations Commission. With over 500 postcards, phone calls, and petition signatures received by member of City Council, they agree to continue for the next 6 months. It was then abolished. Citizens Project helped support a nonprofit effort- the Human Rights Coalition- to continue some of the HRC’s mission, which lasted a short time. Fourteen years later, in 2010, Citizens Project was instrumental in persuading the City Council to reestablish the HRC.
- The “Culture War” continues. Several media outlets, including The Nation and The New York Times call Colorado Springs its capital.
- Citizens Project sponsored a day-long “Get Involved Workshop” (January 1995) in cooperation with the Colorado Springs Minority Coalition. The workshop was devoted to demystifying the political process and encouraging minorities to become empowered by getting involved. This workshop led to many participants getting involved in an effort to re-establish a human relations entity in Colorado Springs (became the Human Relations Coalition.)
- Citizens Project brings Colorado Springs residents together to create symbol of colorful & diverse community; the Tree of Community at Fine Arts Center’s Gallery of Tree & Light.
- Citizens Project spearheaded a regional coalition of more than 25 organizations to oppose the misleading Parental Rights Amendment (Amendment 17) which would have undermined child abuse laws and public schools. The Pikes Peak Protect Our Children Coalition made over 2,000 calls, held a rally, distributed thousands of fliers, and (most importantly) spoke with friends, family and strangers about the problems that Amendment 17 would bring. It was defeated by a 15% margin.
- The Citizens Project Task Force on Science and Creationism announces its new report Public School Controversy: Creationism in Science Classes. Contents of this 30-page study includes a description of creationist beliefs, arguments against creationism in science classes, important court cases, the recent Jefferson County controversy, and resources for further study.
- Caucus workshop- Citizens Project co-sponsored the Caucus Workshop (March 1996) with the newly created human relations entity, the Pikes Peak Human Relations Coalition. The NAACP and Ground Zero also co-sponsor the event.
- Controversy at Palmer High- The Palmer High student newspaper The Lever October 29 issue included a feature article on gay and lesbian students at Palmer High. Not surprisingly, Colorado for Family Values President Will Perkins protested the Palmer High article, and once again, Colorado Springs made headlines around the state as the center for controversy over gay issues. Of more than 50 people who spoke at the board of education meeting, which went past midnight, only five spoke in opposition. Surprisingly, Will Perkins was a no-show. Citizens Project urged the board to maintain the current policy which gives students the greatest amount of freedom to decide what stories should appear in their newspaper.
- Successfully challenged to local charter school’s plans to teach creationism in the science curriculum and teach the Bible in a manner insensitive to diverse religious beliefs.
- Citizens Project was active in restructuring Pikes Peak Human Relations Coalition- to hold local government bodies accountable for the human relations climate in the region.
- Citizens Project took a lead role in organizing opposition to an ordinance proposed by Colorado for Family Values (CFV) that would have overturned our city’s Zero Tolerance for Discrimination Resolution and sanction discrimination against gays and lesbians. Citizens Project Director, Megan Day served as a co-chair for Springs Together, the coalition formed to oppose the ordinance. Springs Together, hired a campaign manager, raised significant funded, and mobilized broad support from across the community well before the deadline for petition signatures. CFV ultimately failed to gather enough signatures to qualify for the ballot, however, they returned shortly after proposing an amendment to the City Charter almost identical to Amendment 2. Springs Together mobilized constituents to lobby City Council to reject this proposal. In the end CFV failed to gain even a second on Council to move forward with their proposal.
- Rebuilt the Schools Network to advocate for civil liberties in public schools. Started by inviting former School Committee members (a committee active three to four years ago) to join the network. In early 1997, Citizens Project mobilized the first Schools Network members to write letters to District 11 school board members and attend school board meetings in response to Colorado for Family Values’ (CFV) proposed Sexual Conduct Policy. Over 600 people attended one meeting to oppose CFV’s policy and their attacks on a school newspaper’s right to publish articles about gay and lesbian teens. Organized 20 Schools Network members to apple for positions on District 20’s newly formed Strategic Plan Task Force at a time when controversial changes were underway in the district. All 20 were appointed. (from 1997 Chinook Fund grant report)
- Amendment 17-Private School Vouchers. Citizens Project established a coalition of 18 organizations who spoke out against Amendment 17 and served as the Pikes Peak region’s branch of the state campaign against this initiative. We issued press releases, help gatherings to write letters to the editors, established and fed information through and e-mail group, managed a speakers bureau which spoke before dozens of organizations, and worked in coalition to phone bank and canvas neighborhoods. Colorado Springs, the same community that voted for Amendment 2 by a margin of 2-1, voted down the private school tax credit initiative by 6,447 votes.
- Citizens Project co-sponsored a presentation by Barry Lynn, Executive Director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State in Washington D.C. Citizens Project arranged his appearance on KKTV, the local CBS affiliate, and two radio talk shows. Lynn spoke out strongly against Colorado’s private school tax credit initiative, Amendment 17.
- Citizens Project co-sponsored the Community Conversation on Race, with Citizens Project Director Megan Day serving on the Steering Committee. Forty-five Colorado Springs citizens agreed to participate in a “pilot program” to experience a series of discussions on race, race relations, and diversity issues people experience overtly and/or covertly every day in our community. These four groups of strangers met weekly for two hours, and opened their ears, hearts, and eyes to experiences centered around race. After meeting five to six times, the pilot groups reconvened as a whole on June 2 at Colorado College to discuss their experiences, and brainstorm next steps.
- Held our first annual meeting for members to increase participation in organizational planning. Citizens Project held its anniversary celebration in late June, at which we recognized volunteers and the board and updated the membership on programs and new developments. The event was preceded by the first annual meeting of the Advisory Council which the Board of Directors also attended.
- Supported Food for Thought, an outgrowth of Citizens Project that we continue to publicize and promote.
- Civic Leadership Task Force- Citizens Project formed the Task Force in 1999 to ensure balance, accountability, and diversity on public boards, commissions, and elected bodies by identifying opportunities for pubic service and recruiting diverse, moderate, qualified community members to serve. Citizens Project published a monthly update on civic volunteer opportunities in the League of Women Voters’ monthly newsletter, sent regular e-mail updates to a broad coalition of people, and recruited applicants by speaking at other organizations’ meetings. To date we have presented civic volunteer opportunities at meetings of organizations such as the NAACP, Hillside Neighborhood Association, Black Coalition of Concerned Citizens, and Trails and Open Space Coalition. The CLTF had a goal of recruiting 10 applicants for city or county appointed positions in the first year. Nine applicants applied for positions as a result of CLTF’s efforts. CLTF members personally asked more than 52 people to apply for specific reasons.
- Opposed State Board of Education resolution encouraging public schools to prominently post “In God We Trust” in classrooms and hallways.
- Citizens Project kicked off the new Student Organizing Program (SOP) by hiring four high school student interns. The program seeks to mobilize local youth to effectively promote and strengthen equity, quality, and diversity in thei8r public schools.
- Citizens Project held a forum on religion in public schools with about 40 spiritual and educational leaders. Clergy members, including leaders of the local Islamic, Buddhist, atheist, evangelical, and protestant communities, joined with superintendents, principals, and educators for this lively exchange of ideas. The purpose of the forum was to develop consensus on ways religious leaders and school officials could help foster a public school environment that upholds religious freedoms and respects religious pluralism. After a follow-up meeting in April, the group decided to endorse and promote a common document in order to help carry the positive outcomes of this civil discourse beyond forum participants and enable clergy and educators to all work from the same principles while addressing religion in public schools.
- Citizens Project conducts survey of diversity on city and county boards and commissions. “Inheritance for Committed Partners.”
- Activist Network followed several state bills including: “Reporting of Traffic Stop Profiling,” “Income Tax Credits for Education” (voucher-type initiative), “Prohibiting Discrimination and Prejudice,” “Hate Crimes,” “Nondiscrimination Protection,” and “Inheritance for Committed Partners.”
- Citizens Project holds first annual Day at the Legislature, brining citizens to the state capitol to meet with legislators and learn about the policy process.
- Citizens Project firmly opposed the April 18 resolution by the El Paso County Commissioners to reinstate school prayer.
- Freedom Watch reported on: tracking hate crimes, Supreme Court voucher update, English Only ballot measure dismissed by Colorado Supreme Court, corporate diversity agreement by Coors.
- Published first “Public Record; Guide to Elected Officials in the Pikes Peak Region” with Voters Network. This free publication, distributed throughout the region, included photos, biographical information, election dates and campaign contributors for Colorado Springs City Council members, El Paso County Commissioners, and State Legislators from El Paso County. It was published for three years, partly with grants from The Independent’s Community Fund and the Inasmuch Foundation.
- In response to a neo-Nazi record label literature drop in downtown Colorado Springs, Citizens Project distributed an informational packet about the “hatecore” record label and met with business managers.
- Domestic Partner Health Benefits- Citizens Project mobilized a coalition of organizations and individuals to preserve the City’s domestic partner benefits plan. Unfortunately, the newly elected city council voted against the plan as their first new business item in April. The slate of four pro-voucher, pro-privatization school board candidates backed by Steve Schuck are elected to District 11 School Board, leading to continuous controversy and ultimately a successful recall effort.
- Get Out the Vote- Citizens Project sent Voter Mobilization Kits to over 1,000 supporters. Kits included an absentee ballot application, information on candidate forums and the candidate survey, and information on paper ballots to ensure votes would count.
- Palmer High School Gay/Straight Alliance (GSA)- after the Gay/Straight Alliance was denied official status in 2003 on the grounds of being a non-curricular club, Citizens Project formed a citizen-student committee that documented the district’s policies regarding club diversity. In 2004 and 2005 it demonstrated that a proposed policy to exclude the Gay Straight Alliance would also require many other clubs to be excluded for similar reasons. This supported the subsequent ACLU lawsuit that ultimately resulted in the club being recognized and the new policy rescinded.
- Citizens Project holds its first annual Creating Community Breakfast and educates the community about CP’s work.
- For the first time in its history, Citizens Project begins publishing its physical address. The former secrecy was due to threats directed at Citizens Project staff and volunteers.
- Domestic Partner Health Benefits- Citizens Project continued its work to urge the City of Colorado Springs to adopt an employee health benefit policy that does not discriminate against gay and lesbian city employees. The proposal failed.
- Citizens Project helped defeat a D11 School Board resolution to establish as a central goal of the school district, “…the definition, defense, maintenance and nourishment of heterosexual, two-parent families…” and opposed a D-11 School Board proposal to establish an invocation at board meetings.
- Faith Voices for Tolerance- Citizens Project organized a panel that packed the City Council Chambers, featuring religious and non-faith leaders to speak against the hateful message of Fred Phelps and talk about tolerance regardless of one’s beliefs.
- Election Reform VICTORY!- In 2005, letters from 26 Citizens Project Activist Network members helped sway State Senator Ed Jones to be the swing vote for the Election Reform bill in committee. The bill passed into law and it expands voter rights, requires voter-verified paper records, increases inspection of voting machines, and requires random audits.
- Citizens Project co-founds the Pikes Peak Equality Coalition with Planned Parenthood. The High Plains Unitarian Church, the NAACP, Colorado Springs Gay and Lesbian Community Center, a local effort to mobilize people in support of a broad equal rights agenda and educate voters if many advocacy groups.
- Citizens Project staff and activists lobbied the D-11 School Board to oppose a change in sex education curriculum that would have prohibited Planned Parenthood from speaking at D-11 schools. The measure was voted down 3-3.
- Citizens Project’s Executive Director urged the D-11 School Director to reject a proposal to begin school board meetings with an invocation. That measure failed 3-3.
- Citizens Project staff and activists lobbied state legislators in support of the Employment Nondiscrimination Act (ENDA) that would have made it illegal to discriminate against gays and lesbians in employment in Colorado. It was vetoed by Governor Owens.
- Rally for All Students March 2005- Citizens Project was the lead organizer of a counter-demonstration where over 1,000 people came to Acacia Park downtown to rally for in support of tolerance, diversity, and equality in the response to a Fred Phelps (the “God Hates Fags” Westboro Baptist Church leader) protest at Palmer High School.
- Diversity in Civic Participation- Citizens Project mobilized supporters to encourage City Council to include GLBT, people with disabilities, and women on a proposed Diversity &Strategic Planning Advisory Board. Although the council killed the plan amid the controversy, Citizens Project helped raise awareness about the under-representation of diverse groups.
- October– Co-sponsored Candidate Forum for State-wide candidates (Sec. of State, Treasurer, Atty General.) with El Pomar. About 100 people attended.
- Sponsored forum on city ballot measures 200 & 201 Doug Bruce’s tax reduction and bond limitation measures.
- Vote by Mail- part of state-wide c3 roundtable effort to do Vote by Mail campaign (mail and phone calls.) Effort sent over 50,000 state wide. Citizens Project’s entire list from Dem Project got a VBM application with out name on one.
- Equal Rights- Citizens Project organized a Rally for All Families at America the Beautiful Park, with keynote speaker Donna Red Wing, in support of referendum I, to establish domestic partner benefits, and oppose Amendment 23, that defined marriage as between one man and one woman. Citizens Project also helped organize campaign volunteers to support these efforts.
- Citizens Project creates the Divine Award to be given annually to a person in the Pikes Peak region who has worked tirelessly to create a vibrant democracy in which equal rights are protected and differences are respected. The award simultaneously recognizes the accomplishments of the recipient and honors the legacy of Amy Divine, the founder of Citizens Project Recipients include: 2006: Mary Lou Makepeace, 2007: Dr. Jim White (Special Lifetime Achievement Award to Jim Alice Scott), 2008: Pam Jones & Juliet Draper (shared award), 2009: Richard Skorman, 2010: John Weiss, 2011: Mary Ellen McNally, 2012: Rosemary Harris Lytle (Special Lifetime Achievement Award to Sharon Berthrong and Special Organization Award to Gay & Lesbian Fund for Colorado.)
- On May 25,2007, Governor Bill Ritter signed Senate Bill 07-025, expanding Colorado’s employment nondiscrimination protections to include sexual orientation. Citizens Project’ Activist Network lobbied in support of this legislation.
- Citizens Project’s Activist Network Lobbied in support of SB- 200, a nondiscrimination law protecting Coloradans from discrimination in public accommodations on the basis of one’s race, color, disability, sex, sexual orientation (including transgender status), national origin/ancestry, creed, marital status, and retaliation. The Colorado General Assembly passed and Governor Bill Ritter signed into law.
- Citizens Project leads local efforts to raise awareness and opposition to Amendment 46, the so-called Colorado Civil Rights Amendment. The deceptively written measure would ban nondiscrimination programs. Its text declared it would “prohibit discrimination or preferential treatment based on race, sex, ethnicity, or national origin in public education, hiring and contracting”, but it will actually ban equal opportunity programs that seek to remedy existing disparities in access to public education, employment and government contracts.
- Citizens Project Executive Director Barb Van Hoy served on the Colorado Unity steering committee, the state wide coalition to defeat the measure, and spoke at numerous local community meetings about the measure, including the Colorado Springs Diversity Forum.
- Citizens Project resurrects a “Plus One” city health benefits proposal to offer all city employees (regardless of marital status or sexual orientation) the opportunity to add one family member to the city’s health insurance plan. After winning broad support among the city council, the city’s devastating budget cuts caused by the economic downturn dooms the proposal.
- Citizens Project opposed legislative efforts to create strict guidelines for proof of citizenship to register and vote. Research shows such measures suppress legitimate voting among vulnerable populations and are used as a strategy to reduce voter participation by low income and minority voters.
- Sent ADL’s December Dilemma to all local school superintendents and principals of Middle and High Schools.
- Citizens Project created a task force to research, draft and advocate for a Plus One employee benefits policy four our city government- including Memorial Hospital and Colorado Springs Utilities- that allows every employee to add one qualifying family member to their health insurance plan. The proposal- being put together with the help of dozens of community volunteers and supporters- will reach out to even more people than a standard domestic partner benefits plan because it could include an adult child or parent living with the employee. Because the family would pay the full premium, health insurance specialists have said such a plan will likely not cost taxpayers a dime. Unfortunately, in the wake of huge city budget cuts, including in the wake of huge city budget cuts, including defunding the city’s community center and turning off many street lights, the Plus One proposal died.
- Citizens Project helped lead a successful resurrection of the Human Relations Commission. Citizens Project played a leadership role in a community task force to re-establish the Colorado Springs’ Human Relations Commission. In June 2012 the Colorado Springs City Council approved our proposal to resurrect this city-sanctioned, community board to protect and promote civil rights for all residents. More than 30 citizens submitted their applications to be among the first nine members, who will create the infrastructure (bylaws & operating procedures) to achieve its mission.
- Citizens Project holds its first Citizens’ Religious Freedom Institute (CRFI)- a one-day seminar on how the First Amendment to the US Constitution protects religious freedom in public schools. For teachers, students, parents, administrators, staff, school board members, and open to the public, this interactive training presents relevant court decisions and practical tools for integrating and upholding best practices in the classroom. This program had grown each year, and the 2012 CRFI hosted 50 educators, students, and school board members, the vast majority of whom received continuing education credit.
- Three Colorado Springs organizations spoke out after Focus on the Family revealed its plans to take over the annual “Day of Truth” event, a counter to the “Day of Silence,” which empowers lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth to bring attention to LGBT bullying and harassment in their schools by making a one-day vow of silence, The “Day of Truth” event encourages students to speak up about God’s design for sexuality. Citizens Project, Inside/Out Youth Services and Pikes Peak Gay & Lesbian Community Center expressed concern at the continuation of the vent, particularly in light of the recent rash of suicides and the potential impacts to the Colorado Springs community.
- Citizens Project learned that an alarming 78% of physical polling places in El Paso County were in churches, more than double the rates in any other county in Colorado. Armed with statistical information about the disenfranchising impacts of church polling places on the democratic process, Citizens Project confronted the County Clerk and has since worked with the elections department and other local collaborators to diversity polling place locations.
- Citizens Project n 2010, 2011, and 2012 posted provocative slogans on billboards, bus stops, online and in other outlets around Colorado Springs to raise awareness about Citizens Project’s mission. In 2010, the campaign invited the community to envision itself without Citizens Project through the following messages: church equals state, create isolation, and celebrate conformity and freedom from expression. In 2011, the campaign stimulated conversation through four questions: is tolerance the new intolerance? Think civil rights are a black and white issue? Should hate speech be protected speech? And is the religious right right? In 2012, the campaign features Venn diagrams with Citizens Project in the middle of the following ideas: sacred/scared, and freedom of/freedom from. It was made possible by donations including work by HHR and Lunchbucket Creative.
- In 2011, Citizens Project partnered with 25 diverse faith and secular organizations to present a special 9/11 commemorative screening of the film Rebirth, a documentary about healing and rebuilding after the tragic event. Other sponsors included: Greenberg Center for Learning and Tolerance, Fuller Theological Seminary, New Life Church, High Plains Unitarian Universalist Church, Temple Shalom and others.
- Citizens Project supported the work of the Safe@School Coalition through organizational membership. We testified at two Colorado Springs School District 11 board meetings in favor of an inclusive, enumerated anti-bullying policy, which passed 6-1 in June 2012.
- In 2011 and 2012, Citizens Project led and facilitated a strategic planning process for the Pikes Peak Equality Coalition, a group of nonprofits dedicated to increasing opportunity and equality for all residents of the Pikes Peak region. Through this work, the Coalition developed goals that resulted in 3,000 Get-Out-The-Vote Contacts in 2011 and fresh formats for our annual education forums.
- In March, Focus on the Family filed a deceptively-titled “Religious Liberty Amendment” that would have allowed discrimination that stemmed from “a sincerely held religious belief.” Citizens Project was part of a statewide coalition of first responders who challenged the measure at the title board, effectively causing Focus to withdraw the measure.