Colorado Gay Bar Found Guilty for Illegally Refusing Entry to Man Dressed in Drag

Regulators in Colorado say that a local gay bar illegally discriminated against a man dressed in drag by denying him entry into the venue, according to a statement released yesterday.

Vito John Marzano The Denver Wrangler DORA Discrimination Featured Image
Vito Marzano in drag – Image Credit:

On the night of August 30, 2013, Vito Marzano attempted to enter ‘The Denver Wrangler’ dressed in drag, following a fundraiser drag pageant, and was denied entry because the bouncer believed that he did not look like his ID. “My first reaction was to remove my wig,” Vito wrote in an article for Planet Transgender. He continued:

” Without the wig, the only difference between my ID and my appearance was a light layer of foundation, a shaved face, some lipstick, and some eye shadow. I was not heavily made up and I had just used my ID without incident at Hamburger Mary’s.”

Vito John Marzano The Denver Wrangler DORA Discrimination Husband
Vito and John Marzano – Image Credit: Rachel Maloney

Vito and his Husband, John Marzano, avoided the confrontation and furiously walked away after Chris Dawkins, the bar’s owner, threatened to call the police. Watch a clip of the confrontation at the end of this article.

The initial incident received widespread attention, gaining support from a variety of news outlets. Even RuPaul joined the conversation, commenting on the disappointing behavior within he LGBT community.

Now, almost a year later, the civil rights section of the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA) has ordered that the bar to resolve the dispute with Vito. The ruling also found that the bar has had a history of discriminating against women and effeminate men.

DORA conducted interviews and investigated the bars history, finding that it has a reputation as being a “bear bar.” While such types of bars are not illegal or uncommon in gayborhoods, the rights of any establishment to screen customers based on appearance or themes is dependent on local laws. Unfortunately for ‘The Denver Wrangler,’ Colorado law sides with Vito Marzano.

“The law is new and developing,” said Denver-based civil rights lawyer Darold Killmer. “I think you will see more cases that are consistent with this ruling. I think this was a courageous decision, but a correct decision by the civil rights division.”

The bar’s owner has denied facts found in the investigation and ruling:

“Their opinion has a lot of errors in it. I mean, it says we don’t serve to women. There are women in all the time. Women love my bar.”

Steven Chavez, the director of DORA’s civil rights division, disagreed:

“At face value, the (bar’s) policies appear legitimate and non-discriminatory. 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.”

For Vito, however, the ruling is a win:

For me, what I am taking from this is the vindication that Wrangler was wrong and does use its policies to discriminate against individuals. I want The Wrangler to change their policy, to create a welcoming atmosphere, and to stop this nonsense of discriminating against members of our community.

What do you think of the decision:
Was ‘The Denver Wrangler’ completely in the wrong or was their justification for their admittance refusal?
Let us know your opinion in the comments below.