Pride Month homepage hero image 2020

We are Colorado

LGBTQ+ Coloradans

The annual Denver PrideFest has anchored the LGBTQ+ community since June 1974, when it was known as Gay Pride Week. The event has evolved in step with social and political change. Today, PrideFest is when members and friends of the LGBTQ+ community connect, have fun, show pride, and proclaim their support for LGBTQ+ rights. 

It also commemorates a pivotal moment in gay rights history: the Stonewall Riots.

In the late 1960s and ’70s, gay community life centered around gay bars—the hubs of social and activist movements. At the Stonewall Inn, a popular bar in New York City’s Greenwich Village, police harassment was nothing new. But, according to media and eyewitness accounts, what motivated the police raid on the night of June 28, 1969, was not that the bar patrons were gay, but that they were gender-nonconforming men—drag queens—who dressed as women for entertainment purposes. 

That night, the police demanded that the men dressed in women’s clothing produce ID or come to the station with them. When the men refused, the police determined to take them all in. As they handcuffed and beat a woman in the crowd, she looked up and asked, “Why don’t you guys do anything?” With those words, the crowd that had gathered over the course of the raid took action—initiating what many consider the modern LGBT rights movement. Gay men, transvestites, drag queens, and lesbians fought back, in riots that lasted six nights. When it was over, the first gay rights organizations formed in New York City, then spread across the nation and the world. The riots’ first anniversary initiated gay pride marches in New York City, Los Angeles, and Chicago; three years later, public displays of activism came to Denver.

No matter the social or political climate, the persistent themes that have defined PrideFest over its many decades in Denver are unity, visibility, and—now more than ever—inclusivity. PrideFest is a time when LGBTQ+ Coloradans can feel truly and openly accepted for their fabulous selves.

HAPPY PRIDE!

Why now?

Currently, the contributions, history, and voices of LGBTQ+ people are minimally represented in the permanent collection of History Colorado, resulting in limited opportunities for the public to engage, explore, and connect with the LGBTQ+ community. Now with generous support from the Gill Foundation, History Colorado will establish the Gill Foundation LGBTQ+ Archive, which will highlight 25 years of work by the Gill Foundation, preserve the legacy of Tim Gill’s philanthropic impact on LGBTQ+ rights in the state, and document Colorado’s LGBTQ+ community.

History Colorado helps make sense of the world through the filter of history while fostering in every Coloradan an understanding of their own history. In our blogs, our publications, our collecting initiatives and more, we've been gathering and telling the stories of LGBTQ+ Coloradans.

Photo of Pride Parade 1991
Denver Pride Parade 1991 History Colorado
Denver Pride Parade 1991 History Colorado
Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Colorado Collection photo of cake with GLCC logo
Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Colorado Collection photo of group of people
Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Colorado Collection photo of policeman and parade attendees at Gay Pride March in 1981
Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Colorado Collection photo of the Infamous Greg Looker at the 1981 Gay Pride March
Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Colorado Collection photo of parade signs at Gay Pride in 1978
Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Colorado Collection photo of GLCC's booth at the 1979's Capitol Hill People's Fair
Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Colorado Collection photo of GLCC sign being made
Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Colorado Collection photo of Fort Collins Gay Alliance bulletin board
Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Colorado Collection photo of Fort Collins Gay Alliance bulletin board
Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Colorado Collection photo of people at Gay Pride in 1979
Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Colorado Collection photo of the Gay Community Center booth at the People's Fair in 1979
Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Colorado Collection photo of Gay Community Center's booth at the People's Fair in 1979
Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Colorado Collection photo of parade marchers preparing for Gay Pride Parade in 1980
Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Colorado Collection photo of Gay Pride March in 1980 at Cheesman Park
Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Colorado Collection photo of Gay Pride event at Civic Center in 1980

At History Colorado we strive to be a place of belonging for all Coloradans and to serve as a platform for community connection and co-creation. We know we’re succeeding when more voices, perspectives and experiences are part of History Colorado. This project will help us thoughtfully identify, collect, and make available to the public relevant documents, photos, oral histories and artifacts that help tell the compelling and complex story of Colorado’s LGBTQ+ community.

Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Colorado Collection scan of PFLAG Denver newsletter from October 1997
Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Colorado Collection scan of collage made of newspaper clippings of story headlines
Gay Coalition of Denver, Mattachine Society papers page
Gay Coalition of Denver Mattachine Society papers page
Gay Coalition of Denver Mattachine Society papers page
Gay Coalition of Denver Mattachine Society papers page
Gay Coalition of Denver Mattachine Society papers page
Hate-free zone overturn amendment 2 flyer
Run with Mayor Pena to fight AIDS flyer from 1983
Official transcript for Romer v Evans Supreme Court case front page

Featured Podcast

In 1975, a newly-elected Boulder County Clerk named Clela Rorex had just settled into her job when two men walked into the courthouse and asked for a marriage license. Her decision would reverberate across four decades of LGBTQ history, and ultimately help redefine marriage as we know it. 

Featured Video

View this episode of Colorado Experience to learn more about the history of the LGBTQ community.

A more inclusive strategy for understanding and sharing history is coming to Colorado in 2020. 

Read the Colorado Heritage feature on the history of Denver's Gay Pride celebration.

Aaron Marcus, Gill Foundation Associate Curator of LGBTQ+ History

Aaron Marcus 
Gill Foundation Associate Curator of LGBTQ+ History

History Colorado

Aaron Marcus is an Emmy-winning researcher and lifelong Coloradan, and a member of the core curatorial staff of Colorado’s official state history organization. Marcus's full-time post as Gill Foundation Associate Curator of LGBTQ History is made possible by support from the Denver-based Gill Foundation, one of the nation’s largest funders of efforts to secure full equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) people. This job focuses on building more robust scholarship and inclusive holdings at History Colorado, which dates back to 1879. The position is also responsible for increased engagement with—and public access to—LGBTQ historical resources and narratives. 

Over the next two years, Marcus will curate an exhibit to open in the new Ballantine Gallery at the History Colorado Center in 2022. It will travel to History Colorado sites throughout the state.

As a historian, I feel a responsibility to find and preserve the stories of all members of the LGBTQ+ community and make those stories—the successes, the failures, and everything in between—available for everyone to learn from and add to. In the research I've done and in the fascinating conversations I've had with so many people, it's become more than obvious that as a community we've come a long way and made incredible advances that we should feel proud of. But it's also obvious that we're not finished in the fight for full acceptance. So, we have to learn from the past to become a truly inclusive and stronger community.

Aaron Marcus, Gill Foundation Associate Curator of LGBTQ+ History

About the Gill Foundation

The Gill Foundation is one of the nation’s largest funders of efforts to secure full equality for LGBTQ people. Started in 1994 by software entrepreneur Tim Gill, the Gill Foundation supports nonprofit organizations across the nation that advance the rights of LGBTQ Americans by conducting research, educating the public, telling stories, and working within the legal system. In its home state of Colorado, the foundation also makes grants to organizations working to lower barriers to economic opportunity and create a place where everyone has equal opportunity to thrive.

About Aaron Marcus

Aaron Marcus has been with History Colorado since 2008 and worked in the Digital Imaging Studio from 2012 to 2019. In that role, he generated artifact photos that were used in local, national, and international media and publications, expanding access to History Colorado's collections. Marcus worked with Rocky Mountain PBS on three seasons of the Colorado Experience series, winning a 2015 Heartland Regional Emmy Award for the “Sand Creek Massacre” episode. Other episodes he worked on garnered a total of eight regional Emmy nominations. In 2013 he researched and wrote the essay “PrideFest: A History of Denver’s Gay Pride Celebration” for Colorado Heritage magazine, covering forty years’ worth of Denver’s LGBTQ history. In his new role, he looks forward to continuing his ongoing research and working with the community to strengthen our contemporary LGBTQ collections.

About History Colorado

Inclusive, values-driven, and intentional, History Colorado has become a force for finding new ways to serve people in Colorado. In 2018 History Colorado provided programs to more than 18,000 students in their own schools, and assisted more than 40 schools with bus funds, to expand efforts that now serve more than 85,000 students annually. Its all-day Hands-On History program at El Pueblo History Museum responds to the four-day school week that is currently administered by 61% of Colorado school districts.