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Large turnout for Colo. Springs’ PrideFest reflects fear about rights

Author: Tony Peck, The Gazette - July 16, 2018 - Updated: August 7, 2018

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Scenes from PrideFest at America the Beautiful Park in Colorado Springs on July 15. (Photo by Jerilee Bennett, The Gazette)

COLORADO SPRINGS — The city’s annual PrideFest celebrating the vibrancy of the LGBTQ community reveled in its usual flashy rainbow-hued hairdos and costumes along its downtown parade route Sunday, attracting a record number of spectators and participants, organizers said.

The large turnout under overcast skies, they said, reflected the growing confidence born of legal victories, such as the landmark 2015 Supreme Court ruling in favor of same-sex marriage, and concerns that civil rights are again threatened under the Trump administration, which has sought to ban transgender people from serving in the military.

Last month’s narrow Masterpiece Cakeshop ruling, which left in place a Colorado baker’s refusal to make a wedding cake for a gay couple based on his religious objections, has heightened fears about discrimination being condoned.

The theme for the city’s 28th PrideFest was “Be … you,” a simple message that helped bring out crowds, said lead organizer Nic Grzeck, who took over in 2015. Since then the number of floats and other parade participants has grown from 18 to 57. This year there were more than 100 vendors, ranging from corporate sponsors’ booths to food trucks.

“That is the most Colorado Springs PrideFest has ever had,” he said.

While Grzecka credits volunteers for their hard work, the nation’s heated political landscape also was a factor, he said.

“It is because of the current administration, that is why we are seeing record numbers,” he said. “We are at a point where we are fighting again, revisiting things that have already been fought before.”

PrideFest’s grand marshal, Democratic 5th Congressional District candidate Stephany Rose Spaulding, agreed.

The professor of women’s and ethnic studies at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs said LGBTQ rights are jeopardized if Brett Kavanaugh, President Donald Trump’s nominee to replace the retiring Anthony Kennedy, is confirmed as the next Supreme Court justice. “I saw him say that he interprets the Constitution in a way that he believes was the mind of the constructors,” she said. “If that is true, this community is going to suffer.

“This community represents the progress of the nation. ”

Not everyone at PrideFest was convinced that the progress gays, lesbians and trans people had made in recent years would be lost.

“I don’t think it will be like this forever,” said Kaiden Ray Cisneros, a trans-male and drag king. “There are a lot of people standing up for our rights, at the end of the day we are people too.”

Cisneros said his goal at PrideFest was to show others that support exists, no matter how alone someone might feel. “If they don’t have family or people who support them, they have a community that still loves them,” he said.

And that community includes all of Colorado Springs, said Adrian Powers, a trans-female.

“Being transgender, we walk the walk of shame all the time,” she said. “But in the Springs I don’t see any of that. It is a pretty hip place.”

Tony Peck, The Gazette