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Hickenlooper: “backwards thinking” in rural West

By | October 22nd, 2010

National Review Online Battle ’10 Colorado election reporter Michael Sandoval posted a video and transcript of Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper being interviewed “late in 2009″ for the show “OUTspoken” with Eden Lane, a transgender journalist.

Eden Lane: For the Matthew Shepard Foundation to choose Denver to have as its home, I think that might surprise some people since they didn’t live in Colorado, he didn’t go to school in Colorado, there really wasn’t that strong a connection. What do you think is it about the environment here in Denver that allowed them to choose this as their home?

Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper: I think a couple things, I mean, you know, the tragic death of Matthew Shepard occurred in Wyoming. Colorado and Wyoming are very similar. We have some of the same, you know, backwards thinking in the kind of rural Western areas you see in, you know, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico.

Lane: We’re neighbors.

Hickenlooper: Right. And in a sense we’re all a community. And, at the same time, Denver has, I think, one of the more robust, politically active gay and lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered communities, really in the United States.

Lane: I think that would surprise a lot of people.

Hickenlooper: It always surprises me, when you go to certain events. But I think that kind of mixture, that soup, that stew of these different elements and so many different people from different backgrounds that are all, you know, they are around social justice, right? And they are around trying to change the sense of the people’s attitudes, right? Lincoln’s old thing about, it’s all I hear, ‘people ask me whether it’s better to be a Senator or whether to be in the Supreme Court.’ He says, ‘No, no. You missed the whole point. It’s all about sentiments, about public sentiments. He said, ‘With sentiment nothing can fail, without it nothing can succeed.’ And they said that’s why those that mold public sentiment go deeper than those who enact statutes or pronounce decisions by legislators or judges.

And that’s what this foundation, what the Matthew Shepard Foundation does, is it really molds public sentiment, begins to change. Passing hate crime legislation, I don’t think it scares that many people. I don’t think the fear that now they could be breaking a law–what it really does is it makes people aware that this is going on and makes people talk about it and creates a change in the public sentiment.

A few points:

- I am not O.K. with someone who wants to be governor of our WHOLE state saying there is “backwards thinking” in rural Colorado.

- I am ALSO not O.K. with someone who wants to be the chief executive of our state including Montana, Wyoming and New Mexico in that description of “backwards thinking.” Whoever is the next governor of Colorado will be working with the Western Governors’ Association (among many other groups) on issues of regional concern that require mutual respect.

- I live in the Capitol Hill area of Denver. When I go to events and see a vibrant LGBT community, I’m less “surprised” than the mayor sounds in this clip. Finding an enclave of people in any community who can offer support and relate to your experiences is an important part of life. When I see the LGBT community come together, I find joy in knowing they have that.

The murder of Matthew Shepard in 1998 was awful; to see that happen to any human being is heartbreaking. That, however, should not be the basis to paint any people, based on where they live, with so broad a brush as the mayor did. He should apologize.

P.S. I have been so constantly frustrated with some people’s notions of what a Republican looks like that – in my (volunteer) role as secretary of the Denver County GOP – I helped create a video of our Denver County GOP leadership and state legislative candidates titled “Do you know what one looks like?” at Faces of the GOP, in which individuals tell their own stories.

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Hickenlooper backpedals on ‘backwards thinking’ comment, 9News

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