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Gay soldiers attacked in CO Springs, mayor rejects resolution denouncing hate crimes

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According to Charles Irwin, executive director of Colorado Springs Pride Center, two of the five gay people recently attacked at a fast-food restaurant in the city were soldiers. Nonetheless, neither the mayor nor the city council will sign a hate-crime-denouncing resolution prompted by the assault, and neither will they issue a proclamation acknowledging this weekend's PrideFest celebration.

Irwin has spoken to several of the victims in the July 3 incident -- three men and two women, including a trio of dancers at a gay nightclub in the Springs. "I'm hearing conflicting numbers," he concedes, "but as I understand the story, anywhere from seven to thirteen African-American men and women came into the restaurant and began yelling gay slurs. There was some pushing and shoving in the lobby, and our gay folks tried to leave the premises and go to their vehicle. But the other group followed them into the parking lot and beat them bloody. One person had to have his jaw wired shut, one had bruised ribs, and one had two black eyes -- the worst black eyes I've ever seen."

Irwin adds that two of the men were soldiers.

Attacks on LGBT community members aren't unknown in Colorado Springs. Irwin notes that four such incidents were investigated by the Colorado Springs Police Department in 2009 and 2010, and he feels confident many more went unreported. As for the latest assault, Irwin points out that it occurred against the backdrop of a controversy over PrideFest.

"It happened a week or two after we publicly asked our new mayor" -- Steve Bach -- "to sign a proclamation about PrideFest, which he denied," Irwin says. "And then it went to city council, and they denied it. So there'd already been a lot of attention for the LGBT community -- and then this hit."

In the wake of the attack, which is still being investigated, the El Paso County Democrats "wrote a resolution denouncing these types of activities and presented it to the mayor and the city council yesterday. And they didn't take a vote yesterday, but they told us they would not be signing it."

Why not? "Because it says 'sexual orientation' in there, and that's apparently a hot button for them," he maintains. "They don't want to sign anything that physically has that in it. The mayor did denounce violent crimes against any group and said they won't put up with discrimination, or something along those lines -- but they will not sign anything that has 'sexual orientation' or 'LGBT' in it."

When pressed, Irwin says Bach "began to speak about the economic turnaround and how creating jobs was his main focus. And I certainly appreciate and support that -- but it wasn't our question or request. And the mayor was also asked to march in the parade, and he had no response."

Does this situation make Irwin fear violence at PrideFest? "I certainly don't think so," he says. "I don't think we're perpetuating any of that. We'll have a ton of security, and it's always been a peaceful event."

He also sees positives in the response of the Springs citizenry at large to the restaurant attack.

"We do have a different mix in Colorado Springs," he acknowledges. "It's a very conservative town. But I personally believe the majority of folks in Colorado Springs are in support of equality, and that's what this is really all about" -- and while anti-gay-rights types still get plenty of attention, "I don't believe they represent the majority of our community."

More from our News archive: "ACLU stands up for right of Colorado Springs middle schooler to wear rosary at public school."

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