We woke up in Colorado Springs this morning and started driving toward Denver. Just a couple minutes down the road I saw a sign for the “Focus on the Family Welcome Center.” I had no choice. The car van turned into the parking lot and we found ourselves walking up to the Welcome Center.
Focus on the Family was founded by James Dobson. It is one of the most powerful anti-LGBT organizations in the country. I just had to stop and see if we could score an interview with someone. The headquarters are huge. They have a sprawling campus with several buildings overlooking the Rocky Mountains.
Upon entering the Welcome Center we were greeted by an overly-friendly woman who questioned whether we thought we were at the Colorado Visitor’s Center or the Focus on the Family Visitor’s Center. She gave us the spiel and handed us two Focus on the Family visitor passes. She told me that she doesn’t call the passes stickers because “stickers are for girls and sissies.” I knew we were in the right place.
We toured the enormous Welcome Center, soaking in the almighty power of James Dobson. There were pictures of him with Ronald Reagan and George W Bush, awards that were presented to him for “protecting the family,” a theater playing a movie about his life, a huge bookstore, and plenty of interactive exhibits. Interestingly, the place was pretty busy, with families coming in and out the whole time we were there.
After exploring for a while, I went up to the front desk and told the woman we were making a documentary about gay rights in America and would like to speak to someone from FOTF for a “traditional family values” perspective. She put me in touch with the public relations person.
We headed over to the main administrative building. This place was huge. There were hundreds of people working there. We were in the belly of the beast. I met with the PR person and asked if there was anyone we could interview about FOTF’s position on equal rights for gays and lesbians. She told me that all off the “homosexuality experts” were at a Love Won Out conference in Michigan. (Love Won Out is FOTF’s ex-gay program. This is where they try to change people from gay to straight. It is an extremely disgusting and dangerous program, which has lead to gay teens committing suicide.)
Unfortunately, there was no one else willing to speak with us from Focus on the Family. So we did a piece in front of the main building. I talked about how FOTF was one of the biggest, most powerful forces in the anti-equality movement. But I still wanted to speak with someone while we were there. So we went back to the Welcome Center and waited for a visitor to speak with. I wanted to know what kind of person visits Focus on the Family, and what they thought about equal rights. After a few minutes of waiting in the parking lot, a couple of folks came out and saw us with the camera. We told them about the documentary and asked if they would be willing to speak with us on camera. One of the guys agreed.
I asked him why he was at Focus on the Family, how he felt about same-sex couples making families, employment protections for LGBT people, and gay marriage. He had a conservative view, but still thought that same-sex couples could make good families, although not perfect because “children need a mother and a father.” He believes that same-sex couples should have the legal right to marry, as long as it doesn’t interfere with any religious institutions. I explained to him that in each of the six states that have legalized gay marriage, they are referring to civil marriage and cannot force religious institutions to marry same-sex couples. He said that if that was the case, he supports civil marriage for gays and lesbians.
After the interview, we wrapped up filming and jumped in the van. As we started to drive out of the parking lot we were stopped by Focus on the Family security. Two men got out of their car and came up to my window. They were visibly angry. The asked what we were doing. I told them about the documentary and that we were hoping to speak with someone at FOTF. The guard yelled at us and told us to shut of the camera (of course we were recording the incident). I asked if he was willing to be interviewed. He was not.
The guards told us to get off of the premises and that we could never return. He said that we were banned for life. I told him that the PR person told me she would try to get us an interview for Monday. He told me that if he saw me at Focus on the Family again, he would have me arrested. They asked if we had already filmed on the property and I told them we had. They wanted to argue. These guys were mean and trying to do their best to intimidate us. It was like they were characters from a bad action movie. I believe they were trying to incite me so that they could arrest me on the spot. It was unreal. I smiled and told them to have a nice day.
We will continue our journey across the country, talking to LGBT activists, allies, and those who seek to deny us equal rights. If you like what we are doing, please make a contribution to keep us on the road.