Coming Out Of The Stone Age

Only in Colorado Springs, it seems, a festival designed to celebrate diversity is destined to run into trouble. First was the concern, expressed by several city council members, that gays and lesbians might come.

And last week a handful of African-American and Jewish leaders claimed their voices weren’t represented.

Still, several thousand people attended Saturday’s first “Everybody Welcome” festival downtown, with ethnic food, cooking demonstrations and everything from belly dancing to hip-hop to Irish and Hawaiian dancing.For many years Colorado Springs has had carried a national stigma of intolerance, beginning with the passage of Colorado’s 1992 Amendment 2, later ruled unconstitutional, which was designed to restrict gays and lesbians from seeking protected legal status. The measure had been born and bred in Colorado Springs, and after its passage, the city was tagged with derogatory monikers, including “the Belly of the Beast” and “the Hate Capitol of the Hate State.”

For many years community and business leaders rejected the notion that the city’s reputation was marred. However, in recent times some Chamber of Commerce types, including officials from the local Economic Development Corporation, have worked to dispel the stereotype that the city is intolerant.

The city’s population of 370,448 is largely white – nearly 81 percent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau in 2003. (Hispanics comprise 12 percent; African Americans 6.6 percent and Asians make up 2.8 percent of the population.

Some 70 miles south of Denver, Colorado Springs is headquarters for national and international Christian non-profit and parachurch organizations – Focus on the Family, the Navigators and Young Life are among the more high profile. Ideologically the city carries the reputation of being

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Cara Degette

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