Like the panting dogs, glistening abs and thumping house music, another inevitable – yet less welcome – tradition of Denver’s 37 year old PrideFest Parade are the anti-gay protesters.
While the LGBT scene has gone through many cultural and political changes over the decades, the message of these homophobic haters has remained stubbornly consistent: Turn away from your sinful lifestyle immediately, less God bring Hellfire down on you, and possibly the rest of us.
While this type of abhorrent behavior sends a near majority of Pridesters into various levels of rage and disgust, I’ve always taken a different approach. Not one of debate, or revenge, or even witty name-calling (as tempting as that is), but one of simple intrigue. It fascinates me that these individuals, associated with no church, political movement or business venture, decide to devote their Sunday afternoons to yelling at a crowd of complete strangers; it’s interesting to me that they take it as a personal insult that someone they’ve never met would like to mate with a person of the same gender. And, weirdest of all, that they are so motivated to deliver their message that they will stand in the face of enormous opposition, being mocked, spit on, parodied and generally stripped of their dignity – and for what?
It was in this spirit of neutral curiosity that I went down to the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception at Colfax and Logan last Sunday – the defacto headquarters for anti-Pride bigots during the parade – to see the Parade from a notably darker side of the coin.
For the first half hour there was no sign of them. I felt somewhat bigoted myself, discovering that I was only looking for conservatively dressed, middle-to-elderly aged white males. Though my stereotype was confirmed when they eventually arrived in all their pudgy white glory, hoisting giant, handmade signs, their apparent leader shouting his way through the crowd: “you thought you were rid of us, didn’t cha! We’re here, and we’re bringing the truth of the Lord with us!”
The man stormed his way to the curb, began shouting at the parade floats and passersby, and didn’t stop for three straight hours.
A handful of other rural types – with almost-adorable cardboard and magic marker signs – stood behind on the sidewalk, timidly eeking out their message of death and sin, carrying none of the gravitas of their leader. I eventually learned the leaders name was Ken Scott and he’d been doing this consistently for the last fifteen years. Like many of the protestors, Scott has a strong history of protesting Planned Parenthood, liberal churches and gay-rights organizations, drawing serious media attention and even a place on the shit-list of Attorney General Eric Holder.
Though unlike Scott, this year’s Pride Parade popped the cherry for a lot of these protestors.
One man with a thick Minnesotan accent – who requested his namenot be mentioned in this article – said he was driven to protest after his daughter came out to him as a lesbian. I was about to nudge him on this subject – perhaps even referencing Dick Cheney’s own response to his daughters announcement — but it didn’t take long to see that this man was terrified and obviously didn’t know what he was getting into. It must have seemed like a good idea when he was drawing “Jesus can help you,” on the back of a pizza box during the drive down here, but when confronted with the overwhelming gayness of it all – not to mention the unrestrained retaliation from those close enough to read the situation – he looked as though he wanted to run back home to his suburban living room, safe under the covers with a two-liter soda and The 700 Club on the TV.
Though this was not the case with Beau Ballantine.
“I’m here hoping to get one or two people thinking about what a destructive lifestyle this is, and that there’s hope in Christ,” Ballantine said to me, holding a large, horizontal sign between his hands. Unlike most others, Ballantine was relatively young – perhaps early thirties – wearing a backward baseball hat and sunglasses. Yet unlike the timid first-timers, Ballantine marched up and down the streets, taking abuse and giving it right back.