Coors' Gay Beer Ad Creates
Major Ruckus
By Burhan Wazir.
The Observer - London

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 Union.
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.',6903,529098,00.html


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