Springs city leaders called to task over response to recent anti-gay hate crimes

(Image: Kellie Parker/Flickr)

El Paso County Democrats joined members of the Colorado Springs LGBT community for a news conference on the steps of Colorado Springs City Hall Monday afternoon to condemn recent hate crimes in the city.

According to police reports, on July 3, two male and one female dancer at a local gay night club, along with one male and one female security guard were at a fast-food restaurant at 3 a.m. after work. The victims were harassed by a group of 5 men and 2 women and eventually the confrontation turned physical and the two men and women were repeatedly called “faggot” by their attackers. Colorado Springs Police officially declared it an anti-gay hate crime. The attackers have still not been found.

Mayor Stephen Bach released a statement last week to the Colorado Springs Gazette decrying any attacks based on discrimination. He also said that his decision to not support Colorado Springs Pride Fest does not mean he condones discrimination. Yet many within the community believe that the mayor and the city council have not taken a strong enough stance against anti-gay discrimination.

Carolyn Cathey, secretary of the El Paso County Democrats helped organize Monday’s event as well as a resolution condemning recent hate crimes. She said that they had privately asked members of council to denounce violence based on discrimination, but after the mayor and council’s refusal to do so, they organized a public outcry over the city’s refusal to take a strong stand.

“A lot of them said that it didn’t feel like the right time, but then whose role is it to set the tone for our entire community?” Cathey asked.

Members of the El Paso county Democrats say they were told that “politically” it was not the right time to sign such a resolution. The resolution in question denounced the recent hate crimes as well as stating that the council not condone “acts of violence or intimidation in our community against people because of their actual or perceived race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, physical or mental disability or sexual orientation.”

Reverend Wes Mullins, of the Colorado Springs Metropolitan Community Church also spoke at the conference, urging the mayor and council to stand up for the LGBT community.

“This is not an isolated incident, as a member of my congregation was attacked just across the street from City Hall,” he said. “They need to be educated about what an inclusive city means.”

Nancy-Jo Morris, a member of the Trans community in the Springs was appalled and disappointed at the behavior of both the mayor and the council. She said that the city’s silence essentially condoned violence and said their lack of support made her feel at risk.

“It’s not illegal for me to be me and this is not a game; it’s my life,” she said.

Steve Mack of the Citizens Project stressed the non-partisan nature of the resolution and said the issue of hate transcends party lines.

Council member Tim Leigh also spoke and though he pledged his support to the LGBT community, he said he could not support the resolution because he said that the council is meant to deal more with financial matters and running the city, and that signing the resolution would divide the council along partisan lines.

“I don’t believe city council is the venue for this cause,” he said.

The resolution was delivered to city council and will be up for debate at a later meeting. Cathey hopes that both the mayor and council will sign the resolution.

“I hope that the mayor and the council will take a stance against violence and bring us into a new era of community,” she said.

Mary Scott, a spokesperson for the mayor, said, “There’s no place in our city for violence, discrimination or intolerance. I expect our police department will do a thorough investigation and prosecute any offenders to the fullest extent allowed by law.”

The council and Mayor Bach have since refused to sign the resolution.