Ironically, given his war on the Republican majority, Gill's life has been the sort of up-from-nowhere saga that Ronald Reagan would have celebrated as a triumph of capitalism. Gill grew up in a middle-class home in Lakewood, where the self-professed computer geek took an interest in technology just as the computer revolution was beginning. He studied math and science at the University of Colorado at Boulder during the cultural tumult of the 1970s, where he accepted his own homosexuality and got involved in the campus gay-liberation group. He took a job at Hewlett-Packard after graduating, but left to pursue his own business and in 1981 launched Quark Inc. from his small Denver apartment with a $2,000 loan from his parents. The firm trailblazed the creation of desktop-publishing software, and for the next decade Gill devoted all his energies to building the company. Quark's software became widely used in the publishing industry, and the company made Gill extraordinarily rich-in 1996 Forbes magazine estimated his net worth at $425 million-but Gill left the corporate world for politics. In 1992 Colorado voters passed Amendment 2, which effectively prohibited cities like Denver and Boulder from enacting laws to protect the rights of their gay residents. The U.S. Supreme Court eventually found the law unconstitutional, but its passage stunned Gill. He retired from Quark and devoted his life to fighting for equality for gay people.
Gill set about creating the Gill Foundation funds, which funds gay and lesbian groups all over the country, from organizations working with gay high school students in New York to small gay groups struggling in isolated rural areas. Since 1994, the Gill Foundation has dispersed more than $67 million.
From that foundation, the Gay and Lesbian Fund of Colorado has emerged as one of the state's most prominent philanthropies, funding everything from public television programs to symphony orchestras. The fund makes a special point of supporting projects in Colorado Springs, the heartland of Colorado's social conservative movement. Its purpose is to simply highlight in a positive way the support of community institutions by gays like Gill.