By Mike McKibbin / NewsBreak Denver / July 26, 2023
[DOUGLAS COUNTY, COLO.] — An attempt by Douglas County Commissioner George Teal to exclude Castle Rock Pride from a group of suicide prevention grant recipients failed Tuesday.
Teal's motion to prevent the LGBTQ+ support group from receiving $26,664 over the next three years failed to garner a second from his Republican colleagues.
The money is part of $1.3 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act funds the commissioners had set aside in September for suicide prevention. Castle Rock Pride was among seven contracts commissioners Abe Laydon and Lora Thomas voted to approve Tuesday.
The other organizations are The Aspen Effect, The Happy Crew, the 18th Judicial District Juvenile Assessment Center, National Alliance on Mental Illness Arapahoe/Douglas Counties, Second Wind Fund, and You are Not Alone Mom 2 Mom.
Teal voted against the action and was not present for a photo of the seven groups, Laydon, Thomas and others. Such images are commonly taken after the commissioners approve grants.
Teal cites lack of data
Teal explained he wanted to keep Castle Rock Pride from getting the county grant due to last year's PrideFest incident, where a male drag queen performer accidentally exposed fake female breasts to an audience that included children. Immediately after the incident at the county fairgrounds, Teal posted on social media that he wanted to ban the group from holding events on county property.
"I'm a real fan of almost every organization here," Teal said Tuesday. "There's just one that doesn't have any data or performance figures; all they have is hyperbole. Castle Rock Pride is only occupied with holding events that are disruptive and divisive at the fairgrounds. They revel in it but feel they can come to us asking for money without any data."
Teal also turned to Laydon and said while Laydon hopes this year's Aug. 26 PrideFest at the fairgrounds is "G-rated, you don't know it will be."
Castle Rock Pride President Anya Zavadil said the grant money would help the group expand its informal Castle Rock gatherings to support queer youth to Highlands Ranch and Parker.
The group wants to offer mental health counseling with licensed therapists, families and casual meetings for queer youth to help build connections.
Laydon defends gay community
"There are thousands of kids in our communities who are not welcome in their homes because of sexual diaspora," Laydon replied. "I am a member of the LGBTQ community, and I'm here to speak for those who are no longer alive and those who are not speaking up."
Laydon publicly identified himself as an "aesthete" in an Oct. 11, 2022, tweet.
Thomas recounted her work helping the U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention add LGBTQ to their list of youth suicide risk factors and quoted from the Trevor Project: "LGBTQ youth are not inherently prone to suicide risk because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, but rather are placed at higher risk because of how they are mistreated and stigmatized in society."
Thomas also noted the Castle Rock Pride application proposed to start a program to help LGBTQ+ youth, so they didn't have any data to include with their application.
Public comments for and against grant and group
The commissioners also heard from citizens who opposed and favored the Castle Rock Pride application. Others claimed the group's real purpose was to indoctrinate youth into a gay lifestyle, and a few asked Laydon to recuse himself from voting due to his identification as a member of the gay community.
Those who spoke in favor of the group receiving the grant money included some personal stories of what they experienced as they grew up confused about their sexual orientation.
Teal's motion to prevent Castle Rock Pride from receiving their grant money followed last week's action. Teal successfully increased the amount of ARPA money sought for a suicide prevention program for the Dads of Castle Rock group from $5,500 to $28,000.
The commissioners will also host a live town hall meeting tonight to discuss their revised fairgrounds policy after last year's PrideFest incident.