Before he was elected, Mayor Steve Bach made it clear he wouldn’t issue a proclamation for PrideFest, an annual celebration in Colorado Springs for the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community and its supporters.
But the Colorado Springs Pride Center asked the mayor anyway.
On June 23, Bach rejected the request, drawing sharp criticism over his decision.
“He says in quotes that you see all over the Internet and I believe in his speech that day when he was inaugurated, he said, ‘We’re going to work together, and we’re going to fix this city together,’” Charles Irwin, the center’s executive director, said Wednesday.
“Together means, to me, everybody,” Irwin said. “He has already set the precedent that he’s excluding a large portion of the community.”
During his swearing-in ceremony June 7, Bach said he wanted to be inclusive, although he didn’t specifically mention the GLBT community.
“I truly hope we’ll have a more diverse community leadership involving more, younger people, more women and more people of color,” he said at the time. “I’ve already begun working on finding ways to do that, and that will be a priority in my administration.”
Before the run-off, Bach said in a Focus on the Family election questionnaire that he wouldn’t issue a proclamation in support of the annual gay pride parade.
“The Mayor must be focused on the issues affecting city government and the advancement of Colorado Springs. The Mayor should be focused on the day-to-day operations of the City, allowing private entities to engage in, and support, their own private initiatives,” Bach wrote in the questionnaire.
During a mayoral debate with opponent Richard Skorman, a gay rights supporter, Bach reiterated his position but stressed he didn’t tolerate any form of discrimination.
“I don’t think we should have a parade for people 6-feet-5,” Bach, who stands that tall, said during the debate.
Skorman pounced on Bach over his comments.
“Steve, I think that’s bad for business, what you just said,” Skorman said during the debate. “People that happen to be gay and lesbian live in this community, they pay taxes, they create jobs. If you’re really interested in jobs, why shut the door?”
Irwin said the center isn’t trying to create controversy.
“What we’re trying to do is to obtain equality for the GLBT community, nothing more, nothing less, just equal,” he said.
In a letter to Irwin, Bach said he was focused on the business of the city.
“My priorities are to transform our city government so that it works for everyone again and lead the charge to facilitate job creation for our citizens,” the mayor wrote.
“Therefore, I will not be signing proclamations such as you requested. I am committed to working diligently to create an environment that encourages economic opportunities for everyone in our community.”
In previous years, former Mayor Lionel Rivera refused to issue a proclamation for PrideFest because of his opposition to gay marriage, so former Vice Mayor Larry Small would write a letter of support.
This year, Irwin also said the center plans to ask the City Council to issue a proclamation.
When asked if there was enough support on council, Irwin said: “From what I understand, yes.”
PrideFest, which is celebrating its 21st year, is downtown July 16-17. The event draws thousands of people annually.