By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
By Michael Roberts
By Melanie Asmar
"I don't think that you indirectly discriminate when you take advertisements from organizations that practice, shall we say, gender discrimination.... Going on to what I consider to be discrimination in advertising, that's covered by part 7, and as everybody admits, that has no applicability to the defendant in this action. That has applicability to people who practice discrimination, advertising themselves, not to the carriers of the message."
As everybody admits, that is, but the Colorado Division of Civil Rights. Last fall, Horner finally got around to filing a complaint against Westword there, claiming that by publishing a La Bohème ladies'-night ad in June 2008, the paper had discriminated against him. And in a decision issued in February, the division said that Horner had probable cause for his complaint – despite the fact that, the year before, the division had cited Campbell's Westword determination in deciding that the Denver Newspaper Agency had not discriminated against Horner when it ran an ad in the Denver Post for a ladies' night.
In other words, the Colorado Division of Civil Rights has a double standard on double standards.
Citing that earlier DNA decision, we appealed the February ruling – but have yet to hear from the division. Instead, we've received only the July 9 letter noting that efforts at "conciliation were unsuccessful."
As the dozens of people who testified before Chavez at last week's public forums know, justice moves slowly. Horner does not. From his home in Minnesota — where it was impossible to determine whether a Colorado business would extend a ladies'-night deal to a male (which is how the Colorado Rockies resolved an earlier Horner complaint) — he continued to file complaint after complaint with the Division of Civil Rights. Complaints against wine shops for holding ladies-only wine tastings. Complaints against bars for holding ladies-only nights. And complaints against Westword not just for publishing ads for such events, but now also for writing about Horner's complaints, in columns that include "blatant attacks on my character," he charged. "I believe this to be in retaliation for previous charges of discrimination that I have filed."
Or perhaps, like a certain "bold, testosterone-laden he-man," we were simply exercising our own rights — our First Amendment rights.
Rather than paying so much attention to mail from Minnesota (on the advice of the Colorado Attorney General's Office, the civil rights division is dealing with out-of-state complaints the same way it deals with in-state complaints), Colorado might want to look to New Jersey, where the legislature is considering a bill that would allow bars to once again offer ladies' nights, which were technically prohibited by a ruling of that state's Division of Civil Rights back in 2004 — although many New Jersey clubs continue to offer them. "It's just one of these absurd over-regulatory efforts," says state senator Tom Kean Jr., the bill's sponsor. "It just shows where the bureaucracy has gone too far."
Last week, our lawyer sent another letter to the division: "We do not understand why the CCRD seriously considers interpreting the law in a way that appears to permit anyone who reads a ladies'-night advertisement in a newspaper to assert a charge with the CCRD. Yet that interpretation has led to a flood of charges from people who not only are not injured, but have not even set foot in the advertisers' establishment. Ultimately, it trivializes important civil rights principles."
The people who attended last week's civil rights forums could certainly tell that to Steve Horner. And they may get their chance. Fair warning, barkeeps: He's back in Colorado.
For more on the decade-long gap in Division of Civil Rights reports, read Wake-Up Call on the Latest Word blog. Contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.