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News briefs from the Front Range

Gay and lesbian activists warn of arrests at Focus on the Family

As part of an ongoing civil disobedience campaign meant to force reconciliation with James Dobson, a Christian group representing lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgendered people will on Saturday stage its second sit-in in two months.

Arrests are possible, according to a release by the nonprofit Soulforce.

Activists will visit Focus on the Familys Colorado Springs headquarters to demand that Dobson, Focus founder and chairman, cease his misrepresentation of social science research about lesbian and gay parents.

If Dr. Dobson refuses to be present, action participants will stage a sit-in until he makes himself available, a statement warned.

In February, Soulforce activists Robynne Sapp and Dotti Berry, both of Blaine, Wash., staged a sit in after Dobson refused to meet them. City police arrested the two within minutes. They later paid $50 fines for trespassing charges. MdY

Dobson pushes against state legislation

Focus on the Family founder James Dobson railed against three state-level gay rights bills in a radio broadcast last week, according to the Associated Press.

Do you understand how the liberals have declared war on traditional morality and traditional family values in this state? he said.

Dobson urged listeners to push for the veto of a bill that would allow gay couples to adopt. He also condemned legislation barring discrimination on the basis of sexuality. He denounced a proposal to change the definition of family in a state housing loan law and deplored an initiative to standardize comprehensive sex-ed in public schools. NZ

Sand Creek site to open

A site memorializing nearly 160 American Indian men, women and children slaughtered by a Colorado regiment in 1864, will finally be dedicated, after a decade of politics and planning, at 10 a.m. Saturday in Kiowa County. Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site, which will span 12,000 acres, will open June 1 on a limited basis.

On Nov. 29, 1864, about 700 Army volunteers used guns and bombardments against a peaceful Cheyenne and Arapaho village in southeastern Colorado Territory. Soldiers in small groups followed fleeing Indians along Sand Creek and across nearby plains, slaying them. For more, visit MdY

State separating from companies involved in Sudan

Colorado has joined a growing number of states that will systematically divest its retirement funds from companies assisting the ongoing genocide in Sudan. Surrounded by supporters including refugees who have moved to Colorado from the African country Gov. Bill Ritter signed the bill into law last week.

"Colorado has no business supporting companies that facilitate genocide," Ritter told The Associated Press. "Targeted investment can help ensure our pension funds are redirected in a responsible way, and by joining with other states we can send a strong message that what is happening in Darfur is unacceptable."

At least six other states have passed similar laws and another 20 are considering plans, said Scott Wisor, national field organizer with the Sudan Divestment Task Force. Since 2003, an estimated 400,000 people have been killed in the Darfur region of Sudan. Another 2.5 million people have been displaced from their homes.

The bill received little opposition in the Legislature. During emotional testimony last month, co-sponsor Sen. Peter Groff (D-Denver) said, "We have an obligation, a moral obligation. Its time for us to wash the blood off our hands and off our money." CD

Senators seek investigation of mental health for troops

Nine U.S. senators have asked congressional investigators to scrutinize mental-health care provided to troops returning from war in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In a letter to the General Accountability Office, the bipartisan group of lawmakers said the Defense Department failed to effectively look into allegations that several Fort Carson soldiers were kicked out of the Army without receiving care for their combat-related post-traumatic stress disorder. They also referenced allegations where soldiers were discharged without receiving care for traumatic brain injuries or labeled as having a personality disorder, a rare condition, to expedite their discharge.

There are allegations of commanders at Fort Carson, Colorado, denying soldiers access to mental health care and instead ordering them redeployed for additional tours in Iraq, the senators, none from Colorado, wrote.

An investigator for the humanitarian Veterans for American is assigned to about two dozen well-documented cases involving Fort Carson soldiers that commanders at the post were allegedly aware of prior to completing discharge paperwork. There are similar cases at other Army installations, according to the organization.

The discharges may prevent soldiers from receiving benefits, including long-term medical care. Sens. Barbara Boxer, Kit Bond and Barack Obama in December called on the Defense Department to inquire into allegations on the post, but said they received no response. They now ask the GAO to analyze the entire militarys mental-health screenings, diagnoses, referrals and treatment of troops with PTSD. MdY

County inmates begin camping out in jail tent

The large tent in the parking lot of El Paso County's Criminal Justice Center sits vacant during the day. But for about a week now, it's served as a new nighttime reality for several dozen inmates and Sheriff Terry Maketa's solution to overcrowding.

The number of prisoners sleeping in the 12,000 square-foot facility peaked at 46 over the weekend before returning to 38 as of Monday morning. Though it can hold up to 200 inmates, Maketa does not expect the number of occupants to exceed 150 during 2007.

By week's end, he hopes to have six deputies and six deputy-in-training civilians prepared to work 12-hour, two-person shifts. Heaters will keep the temperature in the tent above 65 degrees, as mandated by law, but there are no plans for air conditioners. The American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado, after voicing initial concerns, has yet to take any action against the county.

Maketa estimates operating the tent will cost the county $79,000 per month. He adds that several inmates with whom he's spoken have given their new digs positive reviews.

"The majority of them," Maketa says, "have said they would rather be in the tent than in the jail." CS

Lamborn blasted for 'cockfighting' vote

U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn is among a small number of lawmakers receiving criticism from The Humane Society of the United States for voting against the Animal Fighting Prohibition Enforcement Act, which targets buying, selling or transporting animals for cockfights, dog battles or other such events. It also makes federal crimes out of the use of animals in fights and wagering on them.

The bipartisan bill passed with 368 votes. Lamborn, of Colorado Springs, was the only representative in Colorado to oppose the bill, joining 37 fellow Republicans and two Democrats. MdY

Rocky Horror Picture Show rises again

The local Rocky Horror Picture Show has weathered its share of openings and closings in the past year, but the sassy weekly performance may have found a new home.

At midnight last Saturday, the players (including an alien transvestite, a motorcyclist and a just-married couple) gathered at Jackpot Bingo at 2417 N. Union Blvd. for the first time in two months. Director Anthony Ocava says 80 people fewer than half the typical number showed up.

"I have a strong belief that they will be back once word gets out," he says.

Ocava had to move his production from the City Auditorium last August when his rent was increased six-fold. Rocky Horror performed briefly at The Palace, south of downtown, but left when Ocava ended his contract with the property owner.

"All of my cast members are still with me," he says. "They have been with me for over three years now. They are all happy and ecstatic that we are back."

Ocava anticipates a new direction for Rocky Horror with the location change. The group will host theme nights (like "pimp and whore" and "sexy black dress") and will participate in this year's gay PrideFest. NZ

UCCS names provost, plans to build new athletic facility

Christina Murphy, dean of Marshall University's college of liberal arts, has been named the first provost at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, pending format approval by the CU regents in June.

Murphy also will serve as executive vice chancellor for academic affairs, overseeing UCCS' six colleges.

UCCS also has announced plans to replace its tiny campus gym (capacity 400, smallest in NCAA Division II) with a 1,500-seat athletic field house on the campus' west side, bordering North Nevada Avenue and Austin Bluffs Parkway. CU President Hank Brown will earmark $2 million in "Presidential Initiative" funds already designated for athletes to cover the construction costs, with officials hoping for completion by summer 2008.

UCCS hopes the facility will include an indoor track, weight room, women's softball workout space and locker rooms, as well as the main basketball/volleyball court. RR

Public records now available for 25 cents a page or less

For 38 years, Coloradans have shelled out as much as $1.25 a page for public records, the most in the country. But Gov. Bill Ritter last week signed into law a measure that slashes that amount to a maximum of 25 cents per page.

The amounts charged by government agencies have varied. Colorado Springs has in recent years charged 50 cents a page, but its police department has billed at $1 a page. The University of Colorado and Colorado Secretary of State have collected $1.25 a page. The Colorado Supreme Court has a you-do-it copy machine that charges 25 cents a page.

The bill, co-sponsored by State Senate Minority Leader Andy McElhany, R-Colorado Springs, originally capped the amount at 10 cents a page. Some government groups opposed that, noting they routinely incur higher costs, leading to a compromise of 25 cents. CD

Compiled by Cara DeGette, Ralph Routon, Colin Stroud, Michael de Yoanna and Naomi Zeveloff.

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