Attendance is up for Aspen Gay Ski Week. Organizers say more than five thousand guests are participating. It is an increase over last year. Activities this year include film, live comedy, après ski gatherings and, of course, lots of skiing. In a first for Gay Ski Week here, on Saturday, several couples will be joined in civil union in a group ceremony APR’s Roger Adams explains.
Before 1992 Aspen Gay Ski Week drew as many as 20,000 participants. That year Colorado voters passed Amendment 2, which banned any rights protections for gays and lesbians and nullified Aspen’s local gay rights ordinance. In protest thousands of people boycotted gay ski week and attendance dropped to a trickle. The Supreme Court later overturned Amendment 2 and Gay Ski Week organizer Pamela Herr says they’ve been winning back visitors ever since and especially so after the economic downturn
"We've been up since 2008. We've increased 15 to 20 percent every single year. Our lodging is actually up 30 percent this year."
To mark the first Aspen Gay Ski Week since Colorado officially legalized civil unions this weekend Reverend JD Rigdon will officiate a group ceremony for couples who will take their vows. Rigdon says the union is nearly identical to marriage in most legal ways. What will be missing from his official sanction is the word marriage
“They are partners joined in civil union. That’s pretty much the verbiage that I have chosen to stick with.”
For many young people and longtime gay rights activists the idea of gay couples exchanging vows be it in marriage or civil union is becoming the norm. According to the National Council of State Legislatures 16 states now allow gay marriage and three states, including Colorado, allow civil unions. Just this week a gay marriage ban in Oklahoma was ruled unconstitutional. Reverend Rigdon says that in his lifetime marriage between blacks and whites was once illegal in some states. Interracial marriage is now routine. Rigdon believes in the future the same will be true for gays and lesbians. For now, the group ceremony he will officiate this weekend, can be described as historic in Aspen.
“Absolutely,. Civil unions were recognized starting in 2013 and this is definitely a historic event. I feel very honored that I can participate in the way that I am to help solemnize the relationships of the couples who want to have their partnership recognized by the state.”
The ceremony will be held at 11 on Saturday morning at the Limelight Hotel. It will be a public event.