A Denver bar has been cited by the state's Division of Civil Rights for discrimination because it refused to let a gay man dressed in drag enter. The bar is the Denver Wrangler, and despite what its name might suggest, it is not some Country Western joint. It is, in fact, a gay bar. So the state has determined that a gay bar has discriminated against a gay person.
What happened last summer is that a gay man named Vito Marzano, dressed in drag from a fundraiser elsewhere, wanted to enter the Wrangler. He was denied entry. The bar claims it wasn't because he was cross-dressing but because his image didn't match his driver's license. The bar had been previously cited for serving somebody underage and were now being extra cautious. For those not in the know, gay bars have a history of being targets of scrutiny by authorities looking for excuses to raid them and shut them down.
Marzano is not transgender and has made no claims that he is. Nevertheless, the State of Colorado has determined that the Wrangler has likely violated Marzano's right to public accommodation on the basis of his appearance.
The state's report notes that the bar has a dress code forbidding high-heeled shoes, wigs or appearance-altering make-up or strong perfumes. While the report states there's nothing wrong with the dress code itself, it has determined that the bar uses this code as an excuse to exclude overly feminine women or transgender people. The Wrangler is a "bear" bar, whose target demographic is the burlier of the gay men. What's alarming about the ruling is that it seems to act as though catering to a particular demographic is in fact evidence of a likelihood of discriminating against others:
"[T]he Respondent caters to a gay subculture known as "Bears," which are bisexual or gay males which tend to place importance on presenting a hypermasculine image and often shun interaction with men who exhibit effeminacy. This is evident from the pictures and statements made by employees regarding the "Bear" culture of the club and several links on the Respondent's webpage referencing "Bear" clubs … ."
Emphasis added by me because WT-bloody-F? You know what gay people love? Having the government tell them how their various subcultures work and think on the basis of talking to a bunch of people at a bar and looking at pictures. The preference for dating or friendship with certain types of people is not the same as "shunning" other types of people. And to the extent that there are social rifts between various parts of the gay demographic, nobody should want the state government policing how they should be interacting with each other.
I find this ruling maddening as somebody who has been fighting against the illogical slippery slope arguments that acknowledging and respecting transgender people will result in absurd outcomes like men faking it in order to peep on women in the bathroom. It's a stupid, irrational fear. And now we have a man who is not transgender nevertheless using the law to punish a business for not letting him in. And we have a state agency in Colorado declaring that a subculture within the gay community is inherently sexist for having a preference for masculinity.
This case is a good demonstration as to why it's so important to hold a hard line on the right to freedom of association. The Wrangler should have the right to pursue whatever customer demographic it wants for its bar. And if the community finds it significantly discriminatory, they can use social pressures to push for change (as Marzano has apparently done with a call for a boycott).
Read more coverage of the ruling here.