Colorado’s largest LGBT advocacy organization visits Frisco
Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Summit County have a growing ally they can contact for support and advocacy.
That was the message as the state’s largest LGBT advocacy organization, One Colorado, visited Frisco on Thursday, Oct. 14.
As part of a 17-city “Freedom in Every Corner” outreach tour, executive director Dave Montez presented to about 25 people at the county Community and Senior Center about the organization’s work.
He then sought feedback from local residents about how the 5-year-old nonprofit should focus its future efforts and said One Colorado wants to support LGBT residents in mountain and rural parts of the state in sharing their stories with their elected representatives.
“It’s really hard to dislike someone you know, especially when you know they live four houses down,” he said.
He described the organization’s advocacy work on marriage equality, equal access to health care, creating safe and inclusive schools, removing barriers for transgender residents and ensuring no one can claim their religion lets them pick and choose which laws to follow.
Religious exemption laws introduced by legislators in Colorado and around the country have scary implications, he said, because they could allow, for example, a first responder to refuse to treat someone because of their gender identity or sexual orientation.
“They allow individuals to use religion as a sword. It’s no longer a shield,” he said.
One Colorado’s campaign efforts against religious exemption ballot initiatives will require millions of dollars, tens of thousands of volunteers and hundreds of thousands of conversations, he said.
The organization also fights to protect laws that guarantee non-discrimination and other rights as counter laws are introduced in the state.
When Montez asked for audience feedback, people noted a need for increased outreach in Summit County, where the transient population may not know about resources or their rights.
Local ski resorts should be more involved in educating their seasonal employees, a few people said.
One audience member suggested the organization consider aging and address discrimination issues and fears about being unable to share rooms with partners in nursing homes and assisted living facilities.
Thomas Davidson, Summit County’s first openly gay commissioner and One Colorado’s first board member from outside the Front Range, said he met two weeks ago with Summit Community Care Clinic employees at the Summit School District central office to talk about the schools’ growing demand for behavioral mental health services and suicide prevention efforts.
The group started digging into what factors — like race, socioeconomic status, domestic violence, gender identity and sexual orientation — may be causing those issues among students.
“It was wonderful to see the community care clinic staff and the school staff lighting up and saying, ‘Yeah, why? Let’s talk about that,’” he said. “We need to do a better job of getting into our school system and getting to our youth.”
At Summit High School, Gay-Straight Alliance club president Emmy Moul said her organization was established in 2013 and now meets every Tuesday after school.
“Some kids think we’re a joke, and some kids don’t know we’re really there,” said Moul, a 17-year-old senior.
The club members are talking to teachers about being more inclusive in class, for example by avoiding language that assumes all students are straight and by specifically including LGBT issues during special discussions on sexual education and suicide prevention.
Moul said she encourages club members to speak up when they hear slurs, and the group hopes to display a poster exhibit in school showing definitions of different sexualities and gender identities as well as individual LGBT stories.
Breckenridge resident Joe Piccinetti said he married his partner 14 years ago in a ceremony that was not legal then, and now the couple will marry officially in Breckenridge on Oct. 24.
Piccinetti works as a clerk to Fifth Judicial Court Judge Karen Romeo and has lived in Breckenridge for the last eight years as well as several years in the town in the mid-late 1990s.
Now, “I don’t feel like I have to be careful with what I say or do at work because it’s not going to be taken the wrong way,” he said. “Nobody cares anymore. It’s such a comfort.”
He doesn’t hear about hate crimes at work at the Summit County Justice Center and said the chance of local LGBT-targeted discrimination or violence seems low in Summit. Still, the county is not without barriers facing LGBT residents and visitors, he said.
The only local LGBT-focused resource he could think of is Snowmos, an informal social group that meets Saturday nights during ski season at The Dredge Restaurant. More information about the Snowmos hangouts can be found at http://www.facebook.com/SnowmosCO.
For more information about One Colorado, visit http://www.one-colorado.org or find the organization on social media.
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