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Gay phobia brings city down 

With all due respect, City Councilwoman Margaret Radford and Councilman Darryl Glenn would do all of us a favor by sparing us their very unhealthy obsessions with gays and lesbians.

It's embarrassing for them. Worse, it's embarrassing for Colorado Springs. And their homophobia or is it simply political posturing? brings us all down.

Just ask the Economic Development Corporation, whose job it is to generate business and jobs. Or the Chamber of Commerce, which works very hard to maintain the city's image as a magnificent place to live and visit. Or the Pikes Peak Library District, or the Care and Share Food Bank, or Urban Peak, or the countless other nonprofits that have received financial support for important programs from the Gay & Lesbian Fund for Colorado.

Heck, you can even ask U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn, who represents the 5th Congressional District, which includes Colorado Springs. Along with the Chamber of Commerce, EDC and Gay & Lesbian Fund, the 5th District is listed as just one among a vast array of members of the Colorado Springs Diversity Forum. The group formed in 2005 in large part to combat Colorado Springs' widespread reputation of being a bastion of intolerance for which we can give thanks to "leaders" like Radford and Glenn.

Even the city government that Radford and Glenn help oversee as well as its hospital and utility are members of the Colorado Springs Diversity Forum.

On Aug. 18, the organization is sponsoring a festival to embrace and celebrate the city's diversity. As Councilman Jerry Heimlicher points out, this includes everyone. He rattles off just a few examples: veterans, people with disabilities, young and old, rich and poor, African-Americans, Korean-Americans, Mexican-Americans, Caucasians, gays, lesbians, straight people, religious people, atheists. Everyone.

"This is an attempt to show ourselves and the rest of the world that we do welcome everybody that we're all different, but we all love this community," Heimlicher says.

The sponsors envision everything from dancing to ethnic food at the festival, which will take place downtown. Last week they asked if the city would be a sponsor for the event, waiving fees for the police and use of city facilities.

"My attitude is, if this is the community celebrating ourselves and how we get along, what better than to have the city sponsor it?" Heimlicher asks.

By contrast, this is Radford's attitude: "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."

Say what? During the Council meeting, Radford and Glenn prattled on with some concern or was it just shameless pandering to the hard-core right? that gays and lesbians might mar the festival with political messages. The Gay & Lesbian Fund might have a booth and hand out some pamphlets.

Radford and Glenn's comments and their stance that some members of this city should be excluded from a festival designed to celebrate everyone in the community infuriated Heimlicher. But they didn't surprise him.

"This is just nonsense," Heimlicher says. "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."

This isn't the first time Glenn and Radford have tried to quarantine gays. Radford, who routinely utters things like, "I live my traditional family values every day," often brags about voting several years ago to eliminate the city's domestic-partner health benefits plan. Last year, Glenn attempted unsuccessfully to install a so-called Strategic Plan and Cultural Diversity Advisory Board that excluded gays and lesbians. (The irony was lost on him entirely.)

These two ambitious politicians certainly have a right to their opinions, absurd as they are. But this city and the people who love it shouldn't have to suffer continued ridicule because of them. Just days before Council's expected April 24 vote, Heimlicher makes an excellent point:

"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."

degette@csindy.com

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