Happy Pueblo Pride! It’s time for another year of celebration for the LGBTQ community here in Pueblo. We take time every August to celebrate the achievements we’ve made as a community and to remember the work we still have ahead of us.
As an integral part of Pueblo, the LGBTQ community’s presence has grown over the past two decades and our voices are louder than ever. We’ve worked hard to achieve all that we have, but we haven’t done it alone. I’m also so proud to say that Pueblo is home to many allies – allies who continue to show up year after year.
In the early 2000s, I was working as a barista at Wireworks coffee house when a small but proud group of folks attended a modest gathering of solidarity and called it Pueblo Pride. Fast forward to this year, when the festival encompassed the majority of Mineral Palace Park with close to 100 vendors, a day full of entertainment, and thousands of folks attending. The event has grown every year thanks to the all-volunteer board of the Southern Colorado Equality Alliance, southern Colorado’s LGBTQ advocacy organization.
I was proud to join the SCEA board shortly after coming out in the mid 2000s. It was a way to connect with our community and begin the work I have made the focus of my life. While serving on the board, we re-started the LGBTQ youth group OutFront and grew the Pride event. OutFront was necessary because at the time there were no gay-straight alliances in a Pueblo high school. OutFront continues to exist today and I’m incredibly proud of our youth in this town. Many GSAs have started in our local high schools since.
Pueblo PULP was a monthly independent newspaper full of local articles written by an amazing group of people who cared about this town. I was humbled when I was asked to write a monthly column called Inside Out to be sure our LGBTQ voices could be heard. Through this medium, I was afforded the privilege to share my experiences from the LGBTQ community with anyone who wanted to read about them. The column helped folks understand that we are here, in many different parts of the community, and we deserve to be treated as equals.
Before marriage equality was being debated at the state level or became the law of the land in the United States, in Pueblo I helped lead one of the first campaigns to help city employees achieve same-gender domestic partner benefits for health care coverage. A group of LGBTQ folks and our straight allies fought City Council and won this benefit for our city employees. We even managed to stop a petition designed to take away our victory.
In 2013, when civil unions passed at the state level, our local county commissioners and county clerk helped the SCEA organize a mass ceremony for those seeking that right. Bo Ortiz was one of the first county clerks to offer marriage certificates to couples in Colorado before the Colorado Supreme Court cleared the way for full marriage equality in our state in 2014.
Pueblo has a history of acceptance and allyship for our LGBTQ community, but we also have a strong history of pride and perseverance when it comes to the rights we’ve had to fight so hard for. When we take a moment to celebrate those wins at the annual Pride event, it’s well deserved, but we must also continue the work we’ve done as a queer community and the allies who love us.
Our transgender family is attacked, even murdered, in this country and is fighting every day for the rights they deserve. And with the fall of Roe vs. Wade, we know, because Justice Clarence Thomas wrote so, that the Supreme Court is looking to end marriage equality next.
We can’t afford to sit back and rest. Our allies will continue to be called on to help us keep the rights we all deserve.