Last week, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on the Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission case, it at first seemed to be a setback for the LGBTQ community. The 7–2 decision favored Jack Phillips, the Lakewood baker who in 2012 refused to make a wedding cake for a same sex couple, Charlie Craig and David Mullins. While Craig and Mullins had hoped for a better outcome—one that more clearly reinforced rights for the LGBTQ community—it did not deliver the blow to LGBTQ rights that some feared. In the wake of the monumental Supreme Court decision and resulting disappointment on behalf of Colorado’s LGBTQ community, PrideFest Denver is throwing a massive celebration—its 43rd annual—this weekend.
The weekend festivities, which include the largest pride parade in the region and a rally on the steps of the State Capitol, are expected to draw at least 350,000 attendees and perhaps as many as 400,000, which would be a record. Among those attending are Craig and Mullins, who will serve as the parade’s Grand Marshals and speak at the rally on Sunday. “We’re really thankful to Charlie and David,” says Rex Fuller, VP of communications and corporate giving for the GLBT Community Center of Colorado, the organization hosting PrideFest. “This is a way to honor community members [Craig and Mullens] who have made a significant contribution.”
While Fuller says feelings within Colorado’s LGBTQ community were “strong” immediately after the Supreme Court decision, he thinks things have “calmed down now that people really understand what it actually was.” Still, he thinks, the Supreme Court decision—coupled with the presence of two of its central figures—might add a little fuel to this year’s celebration. Ahead of the 2018 Denver PrideFest, we emailed with Craig and Mullins to see what spark they hope to bring to this year’s celebration.
5280: What does it mean for you to be honored as Grand Marshals at PrideFest this weekend?
Charlie: Every year since Dave and I have been together we have celebrated Pride in Denver. The festival has always been a great way for us to express ourselves and celebrate our commitment to each other and to the LGBT community. We are beyond honored to be this year’s Grand Marshals.
What will your roles be, specifically, as Grand Marshals?
David: So far as we know, our roles are to lead the parade to the festival, give a speech on the Capitol steps, and look good while doing it.
What are you most looking forward to this weekend?
C: Well, this year, the parade of course!
D: I’ve been working on my pageant wave.
How does the LGBTQ community in Denver compare to other places? Is there something that specific that stands out here in the Mile High City?
C: I think the one thing that makes it distinct is that none of the states surrounding Colorado have a city as large as Denver, so it’s really an opportunity for the entire region to gather together.
What will your message be to the hundreds of thousands of people who attend the parade and rally at PrideFest?
C: Our community is strongest when we’re at our loudest, when we come together and speak with many voices. We all deserve equal access to businesses, bathrooms, housing, and jobs. Say it loud, say it proud!
How might the recent SCOTUS decision impact PrideFest? Do you expect the weekend to have more energy?
D: Well, hopefully everybody doesn’t hate us for losing! I’m kidding (probably). Since our unfortunate loss at the Supreme Court, we’ve really felt Colorado come together and stand with us. I think PrideFest will be an opportunity for our community to send a message to the federal government that Colorado is a state where businesses should be and are open to all.
Under the Trump administration, do you think the LGBTQ community is rallying together in a stronger way?
D: Absolutely. The Trump administration has launched a full-on assault against the LGBT community, including targeting us and our case specifically. Never in our lifetimes have we seen a government so unbelievably hostile to the very existence of the transgender community. We have to come together to protect one another and defend the hard-won rights we have earned over the past decade.
As couple, how did you react to the SCOTUS decision? What about as individuals?
C: For me, initially, it was emotionally devastating. But then I was able to find compassion for myself and for us and know that we did everything we could do.
D: Equally devastating. But, once we actually had the chance to really understand the ruling, we realized that, in many ways, it was a victory disguised as a loss. That’s not much comfort in the moment, but it gives us a lot of hope for the future. Already, the Arizona Supreme Court has cited the decision in our case to uphold anti-discrimination laws.
Were you discouraged, or did the decision give you fuel to keep fighting for LGBTQ rights in Colorado and at a national level?
D: I think both are true.
C: Currently, over half the states do not have express protections for the LGBT community, and we would like to see that change. We need to influence public opinion and urge Congress to pass the Equality Act, which would protect LGBT people on the federal level with regards to employment, housing, and public accommodations.
What was it like to be the face of the SCOTUS issue on LGBTQ rights?
D: We’re just normal people who found ourselves in the unlikely position of representing our community on the national level. It wasn’t the easiest transition to make, but we always have strived to tell our story as clearly as possible so people understand what is at stake, and to be the best representatives of our community that we can be.
Even though the SCOTUS ruling probably wasn’t what you were hoping for, what is life like now that the case is over? Are you relieved?
D: I think it’s too soon for us to really know what life will be like after this ruling. This case has been going on longer than our marriage and it’s going to take some time to figure out what our next steps are.
If You Go: PrideFest kicks off at Civic Center Park Saturday Morning at the State Capital, with events happening throughout the weekend in and around Civic Center Park. For a complete schedule, follow this link.