The Huffington Post published a letter to Durango last week, drawing national attention to a dispute between two local businessmen and a visiting filmmaker during the Durango Independent Film Festival.
In the letter on the Internet newspapers site, Joe Wilson, co-director of Out in the Silence, wrote that he was verbally assaulted and physically threatened after approaching two couples about comments they made in a conversation involving homosexuality during dinner at Gazpacho Restaurante y Cantina.
Both businessmen Joe Leder, co-founder of Durango Wine Experience and owner of Durango Liquor, and Michael Fletcher, the orthodontist at A Smile by Design said the letter blew the situation out of proportion.
Pam Leder and Suzanne Fletcher, the businessmens wives, were having a conversation about the Fletchers recent vacation, Joe Leder said, during which the Fletchers stayed in a hotel where a lesbian event was held.
Joe Leder said Wilson took their comments out of context.
Wilson, who is openly gay, said it may have been innocuous to them but not to him.
I dont think, initially, these people were trying to be malicious about anything, Wilson said in a telephone interview. I think this is just what happens when a dominant culture doesnt even understand how it refers to people who are historically marginalized and targeted.
Wilson said at screenings of Out in the Silence, a documentary about homophobia in small-town America, he regularly encourages audiences to speak out against intolerance.
If he did not approach the Leders and Fletchers, he would not be practicing what he preaches, he said.
After Wilson confronted Pam Leder and Suzanne Fletcher, Joe Leder said he lunged toward Wilson to physically intimidate him in defense of his wife.
Joe Leder said his physical intimidation toward Wilson had nothing to do with his sexuality, but with the fact that he felt Wilson insulted Pam Leder.
Gazpacho Manager Sean ONeil heard the interaction from another room about a minute after its onset, and when he intervened, he told the Fletchers and Leders to leave.
Wilson did nothing wrong and politely asked the Fletchers and Leders to quit being rude, ONeil said.
The Fletchers and the Leders did not intend to be homophobic, he said, but that is how it was perceived.
Molly Warren, the bartender, was in the back of the restaurant getting food and was not a witness, ONeil said.
Warren was not available for comment.
Joe Leder said he respects Wilson as an activist but felt intruded upon for having to answer to this because anything anti-gay is completely out of his character.
Its good he does what he does because there are some terrible people out there, Leder said. And Im not one of them.