In a time when LGBT communities are fighting against discrimination across the nation and the world, it becomes even more challenging when discrimination is coming from within. A popular Denver gay bar was found guilty of such discrimination when a bouncer turned away a man dressed in drag. According to a report by the Associated Press Monday, Colorado regulators ruled that the Denver Wrangler violated anti-discrimination laws, which now include gender identity.
The incident in question occurred on Aug. 31, 2013 when a bouncer denied 27-year-old Vito Marzano entrance into the popular gay bar. Marzano was wearing a dress, makeup and a wig and regulators concluded that the bar illegally discriminates against effeminate men despite the bouncer’s claim that Marzano was turned away because his appearance didn’t match his driver’s license. It was a policy put in place to deter underage drinkers from entering the bar.
The civil rights division of the state’s Department of Regulatory Agencies urged the Denver Wrangler to resolve the dispute with Marzano, but had to step in when it wasn’t resolved. According to the Denver Post, DORA’s investigation included interviews and research into the bar’s policy history. They found that the The Wranger is a well-known “bear bar” that is intended to service gay men who exhibit hypermasculine characteristics.
In the decision, civil rights division Director Steven Chavez wrote, “At face value, the (bar’s) policies appear legitimate and nondiscriminatory. 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.”
Chris Dawkins, owner of The Wrangler, was obviously opposed to the ruling and believes several facts in DORA’s ruling are false. One error he pointed out was that the bar doesn’t serve women. He said, “I mean, it says we don’t serve to women. There are women in all the time. Women love my bar.”
General Manager Phil Newland agrees. He told the Associated Press, “The Denver Wrangler does not deny entrance to anyone, including women and those who identify as transgender.” He went on to state that the bar’s identification policy complies with state liquor laws. In his view, Marzano was turned away for drunken and aggressive behavior and not the way he was dressed.
With the current anti-discrimination laws in place, businesses like The Wranger will have to walk a fine line when they target a particular niche, while at the same time making sure they don’t break laws against discrimination. This is a case that can lead to other claims of discrimination throughout the country.