Rita Rollman is the director of The Grant-Humphreys Mansion and she is dedicated to it being a place for all love to be celebrated. She’s hosted weddings at the mansion for gay couples since before the legalization of gay marriage in 2015, making the mansion’s award as the Best Venue for LGBTQ+ celebrations a long time coming. LGBTQ+ couples can struggle to find inclusive vendors, so Rollman has taken the guessing out of the process. On June 13, the mansion is hosting the second annual Pride & Unprejudice show – an engagement cocktail party for the LGBTQ+ community and its advocates. It’s an event kicking off Denver Pride Weekend that any engagement-curious couple does not want to miss.
303 Magazine: When did you decide to make it a point that Grant-Humphreys Mansion is a wedding venue for every type of couple?
Rita Rollman: I thought I was doing what everyone else was doing. It was right for me and I wanted to make sure we were at the forefront of the movement. I’m very surprised by the number of venues still skirting this issue. They’re supportive, but they’re not proactive. It was never an active decision for me to start advocating. I’m not pro-gay marriage. I’m not pro-straight marriage. I’m pro-equality. I’ve always been pro-equality, and this just happens to be the business I can make a difference in. If a couple showed up for a wedding tour and they were two women, it was like, “Great!” For me, there was no difference.
303: And how do you show LGBTQ couples they are welcome at the mansion?
RR: On our website, we certainly have both gay and straight wedding photos. We also display the Open Colorado logo on the website to make sure everyone knows we’re inclusive. What I did proactively was changing some of the technical aspects of the program by watching my language. We make sure we don’t use words like “bridal suite and groom’s room” on our forms. Of course, having those on forms could alienate some people, so we make sure it is all-inclusive.
303: In 2018, the mansion won the award of “Best Venue for an LGBTQ-Friendly event.” How do you hope to become even more inclusive this year?
RR: The images we use on the website can be stronger, as well as the way we present ourselves to clients. There’s always things that you can do to be more inclusive. One of the things I never want to do is make this group of people feel “special,” which sounds counterintuitive. I just want them to feel “part of.” We’re not catering exclusively to the LGBTQ community. We’re catering to everyone. So, while the Pride and Unprejudice event is specifically designed for this community, it is open to everyone.
303: About the Pride and Unprejudice event – what is a night at the event like?
RR: The whole idea, since it’s an engagement happy hour, is that it’s a celebration. It’s a celebration of love for the engaged and the engaged-curious. It’s also a safe place where we are celebrating you and your love for each other. It’s a place you can go where you know that every single person there is an advocate and an ally, and wants to celebrate you and your unique and special love. The idea is that when you walk in the doors, everyone there is someone you can trust. That’s what I kept hearing from the LGBTQ-community – they didn’t know which vendors were inclusive and which ones weren’t. When they come to the show, they know that everyone there is there to support them. That’s why we’ve vetted our vendors so carefully, asking, “What’s your philosophy? What’s your inclusivity policy? Is this something you’re doing for business, or is it something you truly believe in?”
303: I know this is the second time you’re hosting the show at the mansion. How was the event last year?
RR: What stood out to me was a couple that came up to me after the show. One of them was in tears and said, “I can’t tell you how wonderful this is and how warm it makes us all feel. Not only to see that you’re allowing us to get married here, but you want us.” It just made me feel so amazing because that’s what I wanted. I want them to feel not just tolerated but wanted, celebrated, appreciated – and that’s what we were able to convey in the show.
303: That’s wonderful. How do you think Denver is doing on inclusivity as a city?
RR: There will always be that group that disagrees – people will never all think the same way. The younger people that are coming in are fusing the city with inclusivity and diversity. I feel like we’ve always been at the forefront for issues. We’ve always been a pretty progressive state. These ideals of independence are nothing new. We have a flourishing theatre scene and a flourishing restaurant scene. All of these things bring in diverse people. The more diversity that we bring in, the more inclusive our city becomes.
303: Absolutely. Do you have anything else you’d like to say about inclusivity and the LGBTQ+ community?
RR: I don’t want what I’m doing to be special. I don’t want to be the one place for gay weddings, I want to be one of many. I just want people to keep an open mind and come to the conclusion that when two people love each other, that is a wonderful, glorious and amazing thing. You don’t choose who you love – You love who you love. It doesn’t cost anything to be inclusive, and it doesn’t cost anything to be tolerant. If we all just practiced that a little bit more, it would be a better world.
RSVP for Pride & Unprejudice here. The event is free on June 13 and will be from 6 p.m. until 9 p.m.