Updated: July 12, 2011 at 12:00 am
Leaders of the gay and lesbian community, local Democrats and clergy gathered Tuesday on the steps of City Hall to urge the Colorado Springs City Council and Mayor Steve Bach to sign a resolution condemning an attack the victims have characterized as a hate crime.
About 40 people attended the rally, many of whom also spoke afterward at the City Council meeting at which they blasted Bach for declining just days before the attack to issue a proclamation endorsing an upcoming gay pride event.
“We’re gathered here today because of the situation that spurred us to remember that we have not eased the hate that has been fostered in this town since Amendment 2,” said Carolyn Catley, El Paso County Democratic Party secretary. “It is not one incident that brings us here, it is an incident that has been tolerated for over a decade. It is an incident that has been tolerated by members of our council and our mayor who will not speak out and denounce hate crimes against our citizens.”
Amendment 2, passed by Colorado voters in 1992, banned laws protecting gays from discrimination. Colorado was labeled the “hate state” by opponents who challenged it in court. It was declared unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1996.
The attack happened early July 3 at a north Colorado Springs fast-food restaurant. According to one of the victims, he and two other male dancers who perform at a local gay club and several of their friends were assaulted by a group of five black males and two black females who called them “faggots.” No arrests have been made.
Colorado Police Sgt. Steve Noblitt said last week that the attack appeared to be a hate crime, based on what the victims told officers. However, during Tuesday’s council meeting, Police Chief Richard Myers said it was too early in the investigation to determine if it was a hate crime.
Nancy-Jo Morris, a transgender woman, said she attended the rally and council meeting to give a voice to the victims who were too scared to come forward.
“This is the 21st century and there is no reason for an area like Colorado Springs to be acting like the pre-segregation South,” said Morris. “This is not Mayberry. It’s a grown-up city and it’s time we started acting like one.”
Bach on Tuesday defended his decision not to sign the PrideFest proclamation, arguing it did not signify that he was intolerant.
“I made my position clear during my campaign so it wasn’t any surprise. I was still elected,” Bach said during the council meeting. “I hope you will find in my actions what you don’t see in my persona. I love everyone in this community.”
He said before the meeting that he would not sign a resolution condemning the attack, which he has already done in statements issued by city spokespeople.
Council members also rejected need for a resolution condemning the attack, with Councilwoman Lisa Czelatdko lashing out at the claim that Colorado Springs has a reputation for being intolerant.
“I resent the representation that Colorado Springs is a city of ignorance and intolerance and small-mindedness,” Czelatdko said.
Speaking about the city council, she said, “I’m sorry but you are not looking at a group of homophobic small-minded individuals.”
City Council President Scott Hente said that eight years ago, the council had passed a resolution promoting goodwill in the city and condemning racism and discrimination. The resolution is posted at the base of the steps inside City Hall.
“I think we’ve already done what you’ve asked us to do,” he said.
See video of Tuesday's rally
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