Colorado Springs News, Sports & Business

Pride Fest No. 23 - without controversy

By Jesse Paul jesse.paul@gazette.com - Published: July 13, 2013

In a week, thousands of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender citizens will flock to downtown Colorado Springs for the annual Pride Fest celebration.

The LGBT community and its heterosexual supporters will have fun and they'll spend money downtown - and that's always welcomed. But the city has stopped short of rolling out a red carpet as elected officials over the years have declined to sign proclamations to honor the event.

In a city where civil and social rights for LGBT citizens has had something of a tortured history, organizers now say they don't need official acknowledgement from the local government thanks to newly passed laws both in-state and nationally.

This year, they haven't and won't ask for a proclamation as they have before.

"It says that in the past decades, the mayor and the city as a city council as a whole weren't supportive of LGBT equality in Colorado Springs," said Charles Irwin, executive director of Colorado Springs Pride which hosts the event each year. "A proclamation would be nice because it would show that our current leaders are proponents of equality. It is certainly no longer needed because we have civil unions in the state of Colorado and marriage equality nationwide with the [ruling on] the Defense of Marriage Act."

Organizers expect some 25,000 people to flood America the Beautiful Park next weekend to connect, support and empower the LGBT community in the Pikes Peak Region. During the weekend of July 21 and 22, the event, which will include a parade and 5K run through downtown, will also advocate for social and civil equality for all LGBT persons.

When the first Pride Fest was celebrated in Colorado Springs, only about five people showed up, said Irwin. Now, the bustling celebration has moved from Acacia Park to incorporate more visitors, events and festivities.

At Pride Fest 23, attendees can expect a more family-oriented environment complete with more entertainment and refreshments.

Another new addition to this year's event is advertising sponsorship from the Colorado Springs Convention and Visitors Bureau as part of greater initiatives to attract LGBT families to the region.

"It's all about being friendly, and that's with any kind of family," said Chelsy Murphy, director of communications for the bureau. Murphy added that attracting LGBT couples to the area makes economic sense as it boosts local tourism and diversifies the demographics the city is trying to attract to the area.

According to the City Council's web page, proclamations don't require city action and are signed by the president of City Council to promote arts, cultural celebrations, and awareness of educational, health, victims' rights or other issues. The policy says proclamations will not be issued for events contrary to city policies, events with no direct relationship to the city, for-profit causes and matters of political controversy, ideological or religious beliefs.

Keith King, council president, confirmed that he had not seen an request for a proclamation from Colorado Springs Pride.

"If it's the same one and it hasn't been accepted before, I wouldn't approve it either," King said.

In 2003, City Council approved health benefits for same-sex partners of city employees before a year later Mayor Lionel Rivera successfully campaigned to overturn that decision. In January 2013, however, new Colorado legislation mandates that those benefits will return.

As for the fight for equality, Irwin says there's still a ways to go.

"It certainly is not over," he said.

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Contact Jesse Paul at 636-0253. Twitter: @JesseAPaul

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