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Intolerance lingers

Large percentage of the 'gender diverse' claim discrimination

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Many Colorado Springs residents who identify themselves as gay, lesbian, bisexual, queer -- or even straight -- don't feel their lifestyles are accepted in the city in which they live, according to recently released survey.

Ryan Acker, director of the Pikes Peak Gay and Lesbian Community Center, said just 15 percent of nearly 300 locals who were surveyed during last summer's PrideFest reported they felt accepted.

"A lot of folks don't feel this is a very welcoming community," said Acker.

The group of what Acker calls the "gender diverse" was polled for the first time this year so that the community center, on the city's West Side, could better serve their needs.

Among the findings, 41 percent said they felt they were discriminated against in Colorado Springs because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. And 31 percent said they were dissatisfied with their qualify of life.

Acker cites a list of possible reasons why respondents answered the way they did, including the recent actions of the City Council. Last year, a newly elected council eliminated the city's domestic-partner benefits plan for gay and lesbian city employees -- just five months after the outgoing council had introduced such benefits. And this summer, Mayor Lionel Rivera declined to issue a proclamation supporting the community center's annual PrideFest and parade because the event included a massive same-gender marriage ceremony.

It was the first time the city ever denied a proclamation for the event.

The results of the survey should be taken by everyone from the mayor to a supermarket checker as a wake-up call, Acker said. As many as 10 percent of the city's residents are gay, lesbian, transsexual or somehow gender diverse, he said.

One tangible item the community center will provide in the wake of the survey is a unique, online and print directory. In it, people will be able to locate everything from a gay-friendly plumber to employers that sign a statement affirming they won't discriminate against the gender diverse.

-- Michael de Yoanna

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