July 14, 2009
PrideFest has the ceremonial support of a city leader for the first time in several years, and Sunday’s gay pride festival achieved its acceptance by going around the mayor’s office.
Mayor Lionel Rivera often issues proclamations for city events, but he has withheld his support for PrideFest since 2003 because the event hosts same-sex commitment ceremonies and he opposes gay marriage. He did not return a phone call seeking comment.
It became an annual ritual for the Pikes Peak Gay & Lesbian Community Center, which puts on the event, to request his proclamation and for him to reject the request. PrideFest found an unlikely knight in shining armor this year: Vice Mayor Larry Small, who issued a personal letter of support for the event.
Small describes himself as a “very conservative Republican” and a Catholic who believes marriage is a sacrament of the church, while only civil unions are a matter for the state.
Unlike the mayor, however, he doesn’t think those stances preclude him from giving a nod to the gay community.
“These are citizens of the community who are having an event, and they need to be appreciated like any other group. They pay taxes, own businesses, and volunteer their time for community organizations,” Small said. “I’m not going to treat people differently just because other people might like or dislike them. I wasn’t elected to judge any of them.”
Gay-friendly bar The Underground, 110 N. Nevada Ave., has hoisted a banner thanking Small. And a group from the Pikes Peak Gay & Lesbian Community Center, led by executive director Ryan Acker, presented Small with a bouquet of yellow flowers at Tuesday’s City Council meeting. They had a different present for Mayor Rivera.
“In addition to thanking the vice mayor for stepping up to the plate, we also issued a very special, personal invitation to Mayor Rivera to join us at the weddings at PrideFest,” Acker said. “We handed him a framed invitation that he can keep. It’s us reaching out to him to say, ‘Here’s an opportunity for you to be a part of the side of history that promotes equal opportunity, equal rights for all people.’
Acacia Park, Sunday
10-11 a.m.: Interfaith pride service in the park
11 a.m.-noon: DJ dance floor and parade line-up
Noon-1 p.m.: 19th annual pride parade, Tejon Street
1-6 p.m.: Live entertainment, beer garden, kids activities, etc.
3 p.m.: Weddings