This is not only something I can do as a United States citizen, this is something I believe I must do," Steve Horner told Judge Brian Campbell. "This is Rosa Parksish. This is Martin Luther Kingish."
This is ludicrousish.
On its surface, the concept of ladies' nights might seem unfair — but no wellspring of historic discrimination raises the issue to the level of the American civil rights movement. There's just Steve Horner, and his endless thirst to do away with the practice. A thirst that last Thursday landed Westword in Denver County Court, where Horner had sued this paper for publishing thirty ads that mentioned a ladies' night, demanding $500 for each instance.
"I'm going to try not to be melodramatic, but I'm very passionate about this case," Horner said as he made his opening argument, or what passed for it. "It's about civil rights. It's about the protections of the U.S. Constitution. . . . This case is no different than if a black person was up here pleading for his or her rights, if she or he was denied equal treatment at a grocery store."
But after Horner spent several passionate hours sorting through piles of paper and piling on circuitous arguments to prove that he had been grievously injured by the ads for ladies' nights, "humiliated over not being invited to the party, and very, very angry," the judge ruled in favor of Westword's motion for a directed verdict, agreeing that Horner had no legal standing to bring a civil-rights complaint against the newspaper for publishing those ads.
"I have footing!" responded Horner, who'd represented himself. And then said it again and again. "I have all the footing in the world."
He did not have all the time in the world, as Campbell ultimately made clear. But before that, Horner was able to get in some of his favorite lines, comparing his crusade to that of renowned civil-rights figures, and comparing ladies' nights (and feminism, naturally) to the KKK and terrorism. "I'm thinking, why should women get special favors when they've asked for no special favors for the last 35 years?" he asked the court. "We're saying we want equal rights but when the time comes for special favors, those get tossed under the carpet for money, frivolity, booze and sex."
We've heard it before and we'll hear it again, since Horner still has numerous cases pending in county court against bars around town, and also says he may appeal this decision. But he won't be able to argue that Campbell didn't take him seriously, because the judge let Horner go on at mind-numbing length, leading to exchanges like this one as the judge delivered his ruling that the words "indirectly discriminate" in the state civil-rights statute do not apply to newspaper ads.
"Can I interject?" Horner asked.
"You didn't let me interject," the judge responded.
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"I'm just a human being," Horner replied. "It was certainly not malicious or intentional. But as a person in advertising, I know that your interpretation is totally incorrect."
After the judge finally managed to make it through his ruling and left the courtroom, Horner claimed that Campbell was prejudiced, "a buffoon," and had "found a way to weasel out" of considering the civil rights issue by focusing on Horner's legal standing — or lack thereof.
But it was certainly an effective way to give Horner the boot. For now.