As participants in last month’s Rural Philanthropy Days convening in Del Norte, Gates Family Foundation joins the Colorado Trust and others in expressing our disappointment and dismay at the events that took place to silence and undermine invited keynote speaker Justin Garoutte.

The words of Ned Calonge, President and CEO of the Colorado Trust, describe the situation and sum up our concern — so with permission we re-publish Calonge’s statement below, and share the Trust’s link to Garoutte’s full keynote speech, which contains many lessons on empathy and acceptance.

We understand there has been some effort towards mutual understanding since these events – to the extent that is the case, we also encourage and support those efforts. It is important to us that Colorado is a place that is inclusive, respectful of what makes us different, and focused on what binds us together.


The Colorado Trust was a participant in the September 2019 Rural Philanthropy Days (RPD), which took place in Del Norte, Colo. On September 17, one of the invited speakers, Justin Garoutte, was giving a keynote address to RPD attendees at a church in Del Norte about their experience growing up in the San Luis Valley and coming out as gay. In the middle of Justin’s talk, church officials cut the audio feed to the microphone because, the pastor said publicly later, they were surprised by and disapproved of the content of Garoutte’s speech. Several days later, the pastor gave a sermon (a video of which was later posted online) that included hurtful and homophobic remarks about Garoutte’s talk.

We are profoundly saddened and disheartened by this episode. As a foundation committed to advancing the health and well-being of all Coloradans, we have long known and been concerned about the disparities in health outcomes among the LGBTQ+ population. Rates of depression, anxiety and suicide attempts have been too high among LGBTQ+ people for far too long, due in large part to continued stigmatizing, discrimination and physical and emotional violence.

The Trust is resolute in its support of LGBTQ+ communities in the San Luis Valley and across Colorado. Discrimination against LGBTQ+ people has no place in our state, nor in society at large. What transpired in Del Norte is a reminder that we still have much work to do. We have already had experiences across Colorado where people came together across difference, and addressed discrimination to support a Colorado that is inclusive and healthy for all, and we will continue to work towards more such moments.

Garoutte’s voice was muted on September 17, but their story is an important one. We are publishing it in its entirety here because we believe everyone should have a chance to hear it.

Ned Calonge, MD, MPH
President & CEO, The Colorado Trust