Equality=Paradise At The Base Of Pikes Peak

Colorado Springs is gearing up for a weekend of gay pride, and Mayor Lionel Rivera has again refused to issue a proclamation recognizing the event. Gov. Bill Ritter, however, has written a letter welcoming all to PrideFest in the state’s second-largest city.

For the fourth year running, Rivera has refused to recognize the annual event because of a demonstration that is annually staged at the county Clerk & Recorder’s office to highlight the fact that committed gay and lesbian partners cannot legally marry.

At the Friday demonstration this year, at least one couple plan to refuse to leave until they receive a marriage license, which will likely result in an arrest, according to Ryan Acker, a PrideFest organizer.

According to Acker, between three and 10 couples plan to show up at the Clerk & Recorder’s office downtown. In the past, couples, many of whom been together a decade or more, have approached the clerk and indicated they want to marry the person they love. When they are refused a license, they turn to the larger group and ask, “Will anyone marry me?”

“Then,” Acker said, “a person of the opposite sex will come up and they’ll be able to get a marriage license – to marry someone who they don’t even know.”

In the past, conservative city leaders issued proclamations recognizing the pride events, but have refused since the demonstration were staged – coincidentally the same year Rivera was first elected four years ago.

By contrast, in his letter of welcome, Gov. Bill Ritter acknowledges the “inclusion and diversity” that the event instills in the community. Here is Ritter’s letter:

Dear Friends,

On behalf of the citizens of Colorado I would like to welcome you to the Colorado Springs 17th Annual PrideFest and Parade.

For the past 17 years, PrideFest has instilled a sense of inclusion and diversity throughout the state. Celebrating a variety of valuable contributions made to our community, PrideFest hosts a wide range of family-friendly events. Today’s attendees’ interest in enhancing the diversity of our community is admirable, as is their expression of support.

You have my best wishes for an exciting and memorable event. I look forward to the continued celebration for many years to come.

Bill Ritter, Jr.

This year’s theme for the PrideFeat is “Equality=Paradise: Hawaiian Style Fun in the Rocky Mountain Sun!” and Acker says he expects to see plenty of coconut bras and grass skirts in the crowd.

He also expects to see the regular handful of anti-gay activists who invariably show up to protest the event, including a man named Mike McKee, who usually shows up wearing a sackcloth and who spreads ashes on his face.

“If he didn’t [come] we’d be worried about him,” Acker joked.

The Springs is one of seven Colorado cities to hold annual PrideFests, which, Acker said, are staggered throughout  the spring and summer to accommodate those who want to attend all of them. The others are held in Grand Junction, Fort Collins, Denver, Pueblo, Boulder and Durango.

Cara DeGette 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