- For generations, Coors has supplied beer to American
men in prodigious quantities. Trading on its clean-cut image as a proud
defender of national tradition, it has climbed to become the third largest
brewer in the US. It has bolstered its position as a defender of family
values by supporting right- wing causes, championing a range of anti-gay
movements. But the company is now embroiled in controversy after a 33-year-
old scion of the brewing dynasty declared himself homosexual and attempted
to promote Coors beer as the perfect drink for America's gays and lesbians.
- Coors advertising evokes 'cool mountain streams, clear
blue skies and all that is inspiring about the Rocky Mountains West'. Hence
the astonishment when a campaign was launched last month in the gay press
featuring homosexual couples carrying six-packs of Coors Light to a picnic.
- The initiative was promoted by Scott Coors, 33, the recently
surfaced gay son of company chairman William Coors. Until then he had worked
in obscurity as director in charge of 'product damage prevention'.
- But, in a stinging rebuff to the company's change of
heart, leading gay newspapers have refused to run the ad, citing the support
of right-wing groups by the company's founders and their successors.
- The company's critics say the Coors clan boasts a long
record of funding anti-gay groups such as Free Congress and the Heritage
Foundation through the family-owned Castle Rock Foundation. Jeffrey Coors,
a Free Congress trustee, was the group's chairman in 1996 when it filed
a complaint in a Hawaii court case over gay marriage, calling homosexual
sex 'an infamous crime against nature'.
- The Free Congress website announces 'our main focus is
on the Culture War' - a term used by Pat Buchanan as a coded threat to
gay and lesbian rights. Free Congress is credited with funding the The
Homosexual Network and Gays, Aids and You, two books by Catholic priest
Enrique Rued in which the author railed against 'the evil nature' of homosexuality.
- Another recipient of Coors money is David Horowitz's
Centre for the Study of Popular Culture. In a recently circulated email,
Horowitz - who made headlines this year with campus newspaper ads suggesting
black Americans had benefited from slavery - touted his opposition to the
'destructive agenda' of 'gay and lesbian liberationists'.
- In contrast to the all-American imagery the company's
beverages evoke, the Coors family has long taken controversial positions
on social issues. The Coors funded the John Birch Society, an ultra-conservative
group founded in 1958 to fight communism in the US. From 1967 to 1972 Joseph
Coors was a Regent at the University of Colorado where he opposed campus
groups such as the United Mexican-American Students and the Black Students
- A boycott by Latinos that alleged racist hiring practices
at the company led to Coors being charged with racial discrimination in
1969 - the company was found guilty the following year and forced to pay
thousands of dollars in back- pay. In 1984, in a speech to a minority business
group in Denver, William Coors said if they considered it 'unfair' that
'their ancestors were dragged here in chains against their will, I would
urge those of you who feel that way to go back to where your ancestors
came from, and you will find out that probably the greatest favour that
anybody ever did you, was to drag your ancestors over here in chains, and
I mean it.'
- Founded by German immigrant Adolph Coors in 1873, the
Adolph Coors Company is ranked among the 700 largest publicly trading corporations
in the US. Last year, sales of its beers rose nearly 5 per cent to 23 million
barrels - making net sales of $2.4 billion. Between 1994 and 1997 it sponsored
Chelsea Football Club.
- 'Coors as a company is impossible to separate from the
family that founded it,' said Kim Mills, education director at the Washington-based
Human Rights Campaign, a gay and lesbian advocacy group.
- 'It really is an old-fashioned, all-American dynasty.
The family has notoriously been dominated by very right-wing and conservative
members. Now, that might seem contradictory with the company's policies
on gays - and we believe those are improving - yet the Coors family members
themselves see nothing wrong in privately funding anti-gay groups.'
- Tim Kingston, editor of San Francisco Frontiers who recently
interviewed Scott Coors, said: 'How can Scott Coors say the company is
promoting gay rights when it has this well- catalogued history of promoting
hate groups?' Coors said his father, the company chairman, had told him
that 'if you find any evidence about any of those organisations that are
blatantly contrary to the rights of gay and lesbian people, I want to know
about it, I will investigate it and put a stop to it'.
- The company declined requests by The Observer to interview
Scott Coors. But a spokesperson said the donations to right- wing groups
had been made privately by family members.
- Jerry Sloan, a California-based activist who monitors
right- wing groups, said: 'The Coors family actions of funding homosexual-hating
groups speak more loudly than their gay- friendly words.'