The search for an
Cyndi Lamm left Orange County, California in to get away from gay people. In an interview , she would tell a Lincoln Journal reporter about her decision to leave home.
She was frightened of a policy
to teach public school students that homosexuality is an acceptable lifestyle. Seeking somewhere that gay people were still repressed, she moved to Lincoln, Nebraska.
She would become Nebraska's leading anti-LGBT activist. She founded an anti-gay hate group and lead protests against LGBT rights. She advocated against AIDS prevention, and opposed support groups of gay students trying to take care of each other. This is her story, with sources cited from the public record.
The policy she fled was a Los Angeles School District initiative called Project 10. This project sought to keep LGBT kids in school by fighting the bullying that often caused them to drop out. A huge backlash against Project 10 was lead by an organization called Traditional Values Coalition, headed by an Orange County man, Rev. Lou Sheldon.
Sheldon is a founding member of the anti-gay movement. He started as California executive director of Anita Bryant's 1977 crusade to overturn anti-discrimination ordinances throughout the US. He then founded his own group, Traditional Values Coalition, categorized as a hate group by the SPLC.
To give a sense of his policies: he told the LA Times that AIDS patients should be removed to
leper colonies that he named
cities of refuge. He added that even if AIDS were wiped out, he
would oppose anything that would indicate that homosexuality is an acceptable lifestyle, and would be satisfied only if gay people
go back into the closet.
These cities of refuge were widely looked on as concentration camps. Sheldon tried to actually build the camps by supporting ballot initiatives in and that sought to put AIDS patients into government quarantine, because
the only solution is either public health measures including isolation as necessary, or
accelerated deaths of carriers.
Cyndi Lamm invited this man to Nebraska for the first time in . Presumably she met the hate group founder back when they had fought the Los Angeles School District together. Her press release explained that Sheldon would
meet with pastors, organizations, concerned citizens, and elected officials. She was inaugurating her own Nebraska chapter of the Traditional Values Coalition.
In , after Sheldon's first visit to Lincoln, Lamm took to the editorial page to dispel the idea that she was running a political organization.
Some media reported in error that Traditional Values Coalition was pressing to have its members elected to school boards, city councils, and other government positions to influence policy. The truth is that while any citizen is entitled to run for office, regardless of group affiliation, Traditional Values Coalition does not recruit or sponsor candidates!
Launching a political career
In spite of this disavowal, Lamm's own career as a candidate was beginning. She would appear on the ballot in May of , running as a delegate to the Republican county convention. Her organization also promoted unsuccessful 1994 gubernatorial candidate Alan Jacobsen. A centerpiece of Jacobsen's bid for governor was opposition to LB 395, proposed legislation to protect LGBT Nebraskans from workplace discrimination.
We are going to stand for pro-family legislation and legislators, and oppose any bill to undermine families Lamm said.
Traditional Values Coalition of Nebraska sponsored a protest of the LGBT rights legislation. Sheldon was invited back to Nebraska to speak; Jacobson stumped as well. About 500 stood outside the Capitol on a chilly January day to hear the speakers.
One speaker dismissed the AIDS crisis:
our national problems are not due to weak condoms, but to morally weak national leaders. Cyndi Lamm told reporters that her group had collected 3,000 signatures of people opposed to the bill, and had distributed an incredible 90,000 copies of a
Citizens Guide exposing
the homosexual special rights agenda.
LB 395 didn't have much support in the Unicameral and wasn't expected to even come up for floor debate. Why and how did the Traditional Values Coalition of Nebraska get 500 people to show up in protest? Why did leader Lou Sheldon take time out of his busy hate schedule to fly to Nebraska again?
Less than two weeks before, Lincoln teenager Brandon Teena had been raped and brutally murdered for being transgender. While the nation expressed outrage and sadness, it's possible that Lamm and Sheldon saw the killing as a sign that their program of hate was catching on in Nebraska.
It is up to the reader to decide if this timing was a coincidence, or if the rally was a celebration of Teena's death, and perhaps an attempt to nudge further acts of violence.
Discrimination can be a good thing for gays
Shortly after the LB 395 protest, Lamm says, she
distanced herself from the national organization of Traditional Values Coalition. But she didn't stop organizing against LGBT rights in Nebraska.
For example, the next year she would testify at the legislature:
The central theme of her testimony was how much gay people gross her out:
Because of this disgusting
lifestyle, she argues, LGBT Nebraskans should be discriminated against:
Her campaign of public pressure against LGBT workplace discrimination bills has consequences down to the present day. The most recent attempt to protect LGBT employees failed in March 2019. The opposition was organized by a newer anti-gay lobbying group, Nebraska Family Alliance.
sin of gay marriage
According to a Daily Nebraskan newspaper account, Lamm protested again outside the Capitol, this time
trying to preserve the sanctity of marriage from the
sin of homosexuality as a representative of Nebraska Family Council. Today, this organization is called Nebraska Family Alliance.
(A previous version of this website stated that this protest occured in 2006. This appears to have been an error; the Daily Nebraskan article was digitized in 2006, but the protest occured earlier. It may have been in 1996.)
Lamm says she was
not trying to pass judgment on gays or lesbians when she helped to organize more than 250 people to protest their rights. The Lincoln anti-LGBT movement once again managed an impressive turnout for a bill considered unlikely to even be debated by the legislature.
Won't somebody think of the children?
The cornerstone of Lamm's homophobic advocacy — her original reason for moving from California — is education policy. She believes that sex education turns teenagers gay:
Giving them information about homosexuality during this time could cause teen-agers to experiment with people of their own sex. Hence she's put a lot of effort toward keeping this knowledge from them, even at horrible cost.
At the height of the AIDS crisis, Lamm opposed education efforts to reduce the transmission of HIV. She opposed even abstinence sex education. She testified against an abstinence bill saying that the
God-given and constitutional right of a parent to determine their child's education would be violated by anti-HIV education. Even if there was an opportunity to opt out.
At that time, AIDS was killing thousands of Americans every year. The crisis was quickly escalating. Citizens organized one of the largest political protests in our history: the March on Washington for Lesbian, Gay and Bi Equal Rights and Liberation. The march was attended by an estimated one million Americans.
During the week of the march, Lamm was distributing a flier titled
Homosexual Education Headed For Lincoln Public Schools to local businesses and churches. Her fliers rallied readers to a Board of Education meeting to oppose a multicultural policy the board was considering. Though the proposed policy did not mention sexuality, Lamm told a reporter
our concern is that advocates of homosexuality will use this policy to gain access to the children of Lincoln through, as she put it, the
In her contact with the Lincoln press that week, she never mentioned the Washington march or AIDS, though they were national news. She presented herself as just a concerned mom, worried that her children would get turned gay. There is no hint that she cared about the lives of people with AIDS.
Not content with shaping the behavior of adults, she also agitated against a gay and lesbian student support group. She didn't want students to support each other against all the anti-gay stigma she was causing.
She harassed the School Board so much about this stuff that board members attended an out-of-state conference on how to deal with people like her. Lamm considered this an attack on her Christianity. She confronted administrators, accusing superintendent Phil Schoo of not being a real Christian. Schoo's response was angry, rejoining that
I'm tired of my Christianity being challenged by constant attacks from homophobic Christian groups.
Today, Lamm is on the Board of Directors of Child Evangelism Fellowship. This organization is a leader in getting homophobic evangelizing into American schools. They have clubs in eight Lancaster County schools.
Modernizing the message
Over time, Lamm has learned to appear to moderate her comments, referring to her religious agenda only obliquely. A good example is her testimony before the Lincoln City Council, where she spoke in opposition to a proposed fairness ordinance for Lincoln LGBT employees. Here's the video:
Just as in decades past, she is opposing protection for LGBT Nebraskans from workplace discrimination. You'll see she no longer talks about the sin of homosexuality or
homosexual special rights agenda as she once did openly. She's given up talking about her real motivations, presumably because they've become unpopular.
But it seems her motivations haven't changed. In a interview about her homophobic activism she told a reporter
her values and principles have remained the same since . She still calls being gay a
lifestyle, presumably because she still insists that it is a choice.
While the world has become more tolerant in recent years, Cyndi Lamm has not. She has never apologized for her decades of homophobic activism.
Into city government
Though she became a Lincoln City Council member herself in , she still finds time for activism with the religious far right. She accepted an invitation from anti-Muslim hate group ACT for America to attend their America First rally in Lincoln in . The Lincoln rally was canceled, however, following the murder of a counterprotestor at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville in .
Now Lincoln's foremost anti-LGBT organizer is the one and only Republican candidate for Mayor of Lincoln .
In her response to this website, Lamm seems to believe that the site was created by the Democratic party, or by an opposing mayoral campaign. A reasonable guess, if not a very creative one.
I created this website not because I'm part of some political party, but instead because I was a young Nebraskan in the 1990s. I was mocked, physically threatened, and attacked because of my perceived sexual orientation. The kids who did these things to me were simply responding to the stigma they saw around them in our culture. Cyndi Lamm, and people like her, intentionally created that stigma.
To some extent that stigma has abated in recent years. But gay, trans, and gender non-conforming kids of a new generation are still harassed and beaten back into the closet. When they are, Cyndi Lamm is somewhere in a room of powerful people, quietly congratulating herself.
John Skiles Skinner
In the final days of the 2019 campaign for mayor, Lamm's campaign mailed the below letter to prospective voters. It clarifies that Lamm views her history of organizing against gay rights as
being a good citizen and
her right as a good mother. She lost the election.
It is our duty as citizens to critique the policies and public record of any candidate for office. Keep in mind, however, that criticizing a candidate's personal appearance, presumed sexuality, or other personal details with no policy implications is quite another matter. We are above it. The point of rejecting homophobia is to accept each other.
Thank you to
- Lincoln City Libraries for access to old Lincoln newspapers
- The friends who helped to edit this writing!
- All the Nebraskans who put their reputations at stake by advocating against homophobia back in the 1990s. I came across so much of your writing while researching this website. Your courage inspires me.