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Poor Richard’s promises to stay inclusive and supportive while looking back on a divisive anti-gay past in Colorado Springs

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- Other safe spaces for the LGBTQ+ community in Colorado Springs are now working to overcome and heal from the Club Q shooting, focusing on community rather than division. The owner of Poor Richard's downtown says what's getting them through this is grieving together, in a place that was not always so welcoming to their community.

"We have seemed to attract probably 50 percent of employees that are LGBTQ+," says owner, Richard Skorman.

Poor Richard's has been a staple for reading, shopping, and eating since the late 70s and is one of the first businesses in the area to openly support gay rights. But Skorman says it has been a bumpy road the last 45 years. Living through a time when Colorado was labeled the hate state.

"I never felt it was the whole population, but there were many loud voices," says Skorman. "It was so frightening really, we were worried and it was very sad because we heard a lot of negative things that we didn't feel like it was good for employees or people here. We had people out there with crosses, swastikas on the bathroom walls, and all kinds of public parts of it that we weren't happy about at all."

Amendment 2 was passed by Colorado voters in 1992. The ballot initiative prohibited the state from enacting anti-discrimination protections for people based on sexual orientation.

Skorman says there were several anti-gay issues he worked on while serving as a Colorado Springs City Council member, but there was a major shift when same-sex marriage was legalized in the U.S.

"It has been much much brighter and bluer sky era, says Skorman. "The mayor welcomes Pride Fest we paint the sidewalks rainbow and color the parks and we become a place where I think people feel a lot more comfortable being themselves."

Now with more pride than ever before, Skorman wants people to know that Poor Richard's will continue to be a place that is open to all. Right now serving as a place to grieve, with subtle reminders of healing and strength all around.

"It is very important that people feel supported in their grief and anger and there is a lot of both," says Skorman. "People who come here we want to welcome with open arms, many of us here are feeling the same way and a lot of our employees knew people or were there that night and so it has just been a big kick in the stomach for all of us and we are all grieving and you walk around and sometimes people burst into tears."

Poor Richard's is giving away pride buttons and flags. If you are downtown doing some holiday shopping this weekend they are right by the cashier and free to anyone who wants one.

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Brynn Carman

Brynn is an anchor on Good Morning Colorado. Learn more about Brynn here.

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