Call to ban PrideFest in Colorado county faces legal, political hurdles
Lindsey Toomer/Colorado Newsline
A Douglas County, Colorado, commissioner is looking to ban all future Douglas County PrideFest events on Douglas County Fairgrounds after an accidental “costume malfunction” revealed a fake nipple on a performer’s silicone breastplate, but other commissioners aren’t necessarily on board.
Douglas County Commissioner George Teal, a Castle Rock Republican, said in a Facebook post that he believes the incident was a violation of zoning codes.
“Exotic adult entertainment is not an allowed use at the Fairgrounds,” Teal’s post read. “Doesn’t matter if accidental (as asserted by this weekend’s event organizers) or a group of Military Veterans having a party where a scantily clad young lady jumps out of a cake… It’s just not allowed at our publicly funded Fairgrounds.”
Paula Greisen, an attorney and partner with King Greien, who specializes in the advancement and protection of LGBTQ rights, said if the matter went to court, it would be “a very easy case for the PrideFest organizers to win.” She said there are laws in Colorado that prohibit discriminating against groups of people based on how they identify.
“It was an unfortunate event, but not something that would justify wholesale discrimination against certain individuals,” Greisen said. “It would be a slam dunk lawsuit against Douglas County.”
Greisen said the incident included no illegal activity and that the idea of banning PrideFest doesn’t represent who Coloradans are, calling this kind of rhetoric “fear baiting” based on a lack of understanding.
“Our culture, our citizenry has made it very clear that we are a very inclusive community,” Greisen said. “And I think taking action like that would display a certain level of discriminatory attitudes and hostility that I don’t think comports with what Coloradans want.”
Teal said he believes he has a second vote to ban the return of PrideFest, but both of Teal’s fellow commissioners issued statements saying they have not discussed the matter.
“There is substantial evidence the organizers allow, or at least are unable to prevent, participants from performing acts of exotic adult entertainment,” Teal said in his statement.
Commissioner Abe Laydon said in a tweet that he “wasn’t a part of any discussions to ban the PrideFest.”
“I don’t make decisions about county matters outside of public hearings and this matter hasn’t been presented to the board yet,” Laydon’s tweet read. “The people of this county expect sound governance which I am committed to providing.”
Laydon also posted on Facebook about the matter, noting that Castle Rock Pride, the organizers of PrideFest, already issued an apology and would take steps to prevent future incidents. He said he will work to continue supporting liberty principles in the Constitution and would not use governmental powers “to support thinly veiled bigotry and anti-gay rhetoric.”
Castle Rock Pride apologized for the incident in a statement on Facebook and said “there always is risk of the unexpected on a live stage.” A separate post on the organization’s Facebook apologized for any discomfort the incident may have caused and expressed gratitude to those who reached out with their concerns.
“This single incident should in no way tarnish the reputation or future of the Douglas County PrideFest. Through these events, Castle Rock Pride strives to build positive networks of support and inclusion, promote equality, and foster acceptance and diversity,” the statement read.
“The current mean-spirited social media chatter is reprehensible and indicative that there is a lot more work to be done. It’s unacceptable that there are politicians who characterize our family friendly entertainment as exotic adult dancing and who want to make this single incident an excuse to follow their agenda to erode diversity, equity, and inclusion for all in Douglas County.”
Commissioner Lora Thomas said in a tweet that she met with the organizers of PrideFest “in a sincere and open-minded effort to do what we all believe government should always endeavor to do — work through differences while respecting and valuing all points of view on the issues at hand.”
“We look forward to continued discussions in an effort to maintain the openness and equality in the availability of Douglas County facilities, while also preserving the standards that make those facilities so popular and inviting,” Thomas’s tweet read.
Requests from Newsline for comment sent to Teal and Castle Rock Pride did not receive responses.