COLORADO: Denver Gay Bar Found Guilty Of Discriminating Against Man In Drag

Colorado civil rights officials have ruled that a Denver gay bar discriminated when its bouncers refused entry to a man in drag. Via the Associated Press:

The civil rights division of the state’s Department of Regulatory Agencies has ordered the Denver Wrangler to resolve the dispute with Vito Marzano, a gay man who was wearing a dress and wig when he went to the bar Aug. 31, 2013. The order obtained Monday says the bouncer turned Marzano away because his appearance didn’t match the one on his driver’s license. But regulators determined that the bar wrongly favors those with a masculine appearance because its dress code bars high heels, wigs and perfume. A bar employee who answered the phone wouldn’t comment. Marzano says the order will help protect others from discrimination.

Vito is an “avid JMG reader” and may be participating in the comments. A press release has been posted to the Boycott The Denver Wrangler Facebook page:

Representatives from Marzano’s Boycott the Denver Wrangler protest group (“the Boycott”) has previously made numerous attempts to meet and discuss with the Wrangler staff, including requesting mediation through DORA, but were ignored each time. The Wrangler has no choice now but to comply. Members of the Boycott could not be more thrilled with the determination issued by DORA. This decision helps to protect everyone in the State of Colorado who is gender non-conforming in any capacity from discrimination in places of public accommodation. It also reaffirms the State’s commitment to its lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, asexual, and intersex constituents by saying loudly and proudly that discrimination against anyone for any reason is never acceptable. The Boycott will continue its fight against the Wrangler until all of our trans*, gender nonconforming, and effeminate family members are no longer mistreated, excluded, or abused by the Wrangler staff.

You can read the full DORA ruling at the above link.

I’m particularly annoyed that this action had to be taken against a nightclub that markets itself as a bear bar. Every bear event I’ve ever attended has been very drag-friendly.

UPDATE: The Denver Post just published a story about the ruling.

Chris Dawkins, owner of The Wrangler, says that several of the premises DORA uses to come to its conclusion are false. “Their opinion has a lot of errors in it,” Dawkins said. “I mean, it says we don’t serve to women. There are women in all the time. Women love my bar.” He goes on to highlight how rigid liquor laws are, noting The Wrangler recently had to pay a fine because “we messed up” and served alcohol to an underage person in 2012. “In this case, it is different from the gay men who wanted a cake for their wedding because we have to comply with liquor law,” Dawkins said referring to a recent civil rights case in Colorado where a cakemaker refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple. “The cake maker doesn’t have to check an ID, we do.”

However, DORA’s investigation, which included interviews and research into the bar’s policy history, found that The Wrangler is known as a “bear bar” that prides itself on being a popular watering hole for gay men displaying hypermasculine characteristics. “At face value, the (bar’s) policies appear legitimate and non-discriminatory,” wrote Steven Chavez of Colorado’s civil rights division in the order. “However, the evidence indicates that the (bar) uses its policies to select patrons whose appearance is masculine, whether or not they are male or female, for entry into its club.”