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Fort Worth tries to burnish its image with gays

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A raid on a Fort Worth gay bar on the 40th anniversary of Stonewall last summer has ushered in a new relationship between the city and the gay community unimaginable just a few years ago.

On June 28th, Texas and city police officers conducted a violent raid on the Rainbow Lounge –and by doing so, they became the catalyst that would spark a new era of acceptance for Fort Worth’s gay community.

The almost daily TV reports on the raid broadcast over the following two months also certainly didn’t hurt business here at that bar. It’s usually packed on weekends and looks more like a cosmopolitan New York club than a gay bar in a city affectionately known as “Cowtown.”

And while neighboring Dallas had it’s first gay pride parade nearly 40 years ago, Fort Worth’s gay community has remained decidedly low key, faced with a conservative city government and some churches that were often hostile.

Todd Camp: “The city had always been very indifferent to the community,”

That’s veteran Fort Worth journalist Todd Camp, who was celebrating his birthday at the Rainbow Lounge on the night of the raid along with some other prominent businessmen. He says the raid was a defining moment in the city’s relationship with the gay community.

Camp: “Because of the people that were in the bar that night, and we were able to get international coverage in a matter of hours, they all kind of stepped back and said, ‘we really screwed up here.’”

Apologies ensued and some who were involved in the violent raid were fired. But a lasting legacy may come from the diversity panel established by the city manager shortly after the raid. It’s considering ad campaigns to attract gay tourism, domestic partner benefits for city employees and even assigning LGBT businesses minority status when it comes to required business participation with the city.

The nearly constant flood of news reports has also put a face on a community that was nearly invisible in Cowtown before the 40th anniversary of Stonewall.

–Steve Newman in Fort Worth

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Written by OutQ News staff

September 28, 2009 at 3:15 PM

Posted in Uncategorized

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