Latest Springs Anti-Gay Fracas Quashed

After briefly slapping more mud on its public face, Colorado Springs city officials have washed off, hoping that its latest fracas involving an anti-gay stance will quickly be forgotten.

As Colorado Confidential reported earlier this month, the  latest dustup came up earlier this month, during a city council discussion about an upcoming diversity festival – which is designed to send the message to the community and the world, that in Colorado Springs, everyone is welcome. Rich people, poor people, African-Americans, Asian-Americans, Hispanics, Caucasians, disabled people, gay people…

And then City Councilwoman Margaret Radford dropped the stink bomb: “When a large portion of this community does not support gay and lesbian viewpoints, I don’t see us putting tax dollars into supporting that direction.”

The festival is being sponsored by the Colorado Springs Diversity Council, which includes a powerhouse of influential business and community groups, including the local Economic Development Council and the Chamber of Commerce – and the philanthropic Gay & Lesbian Fund of Colorado.

The group had asked the city to waive the fees for routine police and security and the use of city facilities – around $10,000 worth of services.

During the discussion, another councilman, Darryl Glenn, also offered criticism over the inclusion of gays. A third, Tom Gallagher, has expressed concern that anti-war activists will mar the festivities.

“This is just nonsense,” said Jerry Heimlicher, who also serves on council, in a subsequent interview. “Margaret [Radford] was saying, in effect, ‘How dare we spend tax money on gays and lesbians?’ Well, we don’t have a policy that when people call 911 we ask them ‘are you gay, because if you are we won’t come out.’ I mean, this is how ridiculous this has become.”

“My attitude is, if this is the community celebrating ourselves and how we get along, what better than to have the city sponsor it?” said Heimlicher. “It’s time we come out of the Stone Age. [Gays and lesbians] live here and have rights like everyone else. They’re citizens of this community.”

Colorado Springs, the birthplace of the state’s 1992 Amendment 2 initiative designed to deny gays and lesbians protected legal status, has long held an unflattering national reputation of being intolerant toward gays and others.

This week, Radford, Glenn and Gallagher joined the remaining six members of council to unanimously approve waiving the fees.

The diversity festival is scheduled to take place Aug. 18.

Cara DeGette, a longtime journalist, is a senior fellow at Colorado Confidential, and a columnist and contributing editor at the Colorado Springs Independent. E-mail her at cdegette@coloradoconfidential.com

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