LGBTQ Rainbow flag at the Denver PrideFest parade

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LGBTQ+ Denver

Denver's laid-back, welcoming nature makes it the true queer center of the West, with many hotels and restaurants catering to LGBTQ+ visitors. As the largest city in a 600-mile radius, Denver attracts members of the LGBTQ+ community from all over the West and the world, resulting in a well-established LGBTQ+ nightlife scene, vibrant neighborhoods, queer-friendly hotels and numerous annual events that draw huge crowds.

A Look at Denver LGBTQ+ History

Denver has long been a gathering place for people of all cultures. First were the high plains American Indians who followed the buffalo herds and lived throughout the Front Range. When prospectors discovered gold in 1858, thousands of people crossed the Great Plains and settled in and around Denver. By the 1980s, Denver was dubbed the gay oasis of the West. Today, Denver is a city of many colors and cultures, a rich tapestry of diverse and fascinating people. 

Here are some moments of notice in LGBTQ+ history in Denver:

1973: Gay Coalition of Denver works with Denver's City Council to abolish anti-gay laws.

1974: Denver's first Pride celebration, a picnic, is held in Cheesman Park. 

1975: Denver holds its first official Pride Parade. 

1982: The Colorado Gay Rodeo Association is formed. Soon after, Denver hosted its first gay rodeo. 

1983: Denver's gay and lesbian community mobilizes to elect Federico Peña, Denver's first Latino mayor and executive ally to the community. 

1990: Denver becomes one of the first municipalities in the nation to adopt an anti-discrimination policy including gay and lesbians. 

1991: Denver voters supported the anti-discrimination policy despite opponents trying to overturn it at the ballot. 

1994: The Gill Foundation is organized to advance LGBTQ+ rights through charity and education. 

2010: The Center on Colfax, the producer of PrideFest, adds a second day of festivities.  

2013: Colorado adopts the Colorado Civil Union Act establishing relationship recognition for same-sex couples.

2014: Colorado legalizes same-sex marriage on October 7.

2015: U.S. Supreme Court rules in favor of same-sex marriage.

2018: Colorado elects Jared Polis, the first openly gay man to be a U.S. governor.  

Audio Walking Tour of Denver LGBTQ+ History by AARP 

Take a self-guided audio tour right on your smartphone to learn about Denver's LGBTQ+ history. Developed by AARP Colorado and The Center on Colfax, the GPS-led app will guide you through Denver’s LGBTQ+ landmarks in the Capitol Hill neighborhood and along Colfax Avenue. The 10-point tour includes Cheesman Park; Charlie’s, home of the Colorado Gay Rodeo Association; and Smiley’s Laundromat, a community landmark that generated intense debate about historic preservation and community identity. To access the tour, download the free Geotourist app on the Apple iTunes and Google Play app stores. 


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