Legal advocates are urging Aurora officials to "act swiftly" in approving a request to hold that city's first Pride parade this June after an initial vote was delayed in response to concerns voiced by local religious personnel.
A vote by the city's Government Operations Committee on the parade permit is set for Feb. 13. On Feb. 12, ACLU of Illinois Senior Staff Attorney Rebecca Glenberg wrote to City of Aurora Corporation Counsel Richard Veenstra urging him to remind committee members that objections against the event have been largely misplaced and outside the purview of the committee.
"Members of the public have a right to express their views on any pending government
action, including a parade permit," wrote Glenberg. "But when those views relate to assumptions about the content of speech or the identity of the speakers, the City may not take those views into account in making permit decisions. Nor may the City impose additional procedural hurdles on applicants based on such views."
Glenberg also expressed concern about the constitutionality of the city's parade permit ordinance in the letter, noting that it lacked basic First Amendment-related protections such as objective approval criteria and clear avenues of appeal.
A previous vote about the parade, which is being organized by the progressive group Indivisible Aurora, was delayed after Committee Chair Scheketa Hart-Burns asked organizers to meet with concerned clergy.
According to Indivisible Aurora founder and Executive Director Chuck Adams, those concerns in the meeting were largely based on retrograde stereotypes.
Adams recalled, "While there were some appropriate questions asked, about the cost to the citywhich is not an issue, we're funding the entire paradeor logistics around police protection, what concerned us were the tone and tenor of questions based on stereotypes about the LGBT community: Would there be sex on floats? Would there be nudity? They were those kinds of questions, around activities that would be illegal in any parade. They were certainly problematic for us. What was even more problematic for me was that the [committee] chair was moderating this conversation."
Glenberg told Windy City Times that, "The issue of 'appropriateness' is not one in which a parade permit can be granted or denied, and it's not one in which any restrictions can be placed on a parade permit. We're concerned that there have been delays, and with this meeting set up based on these concerns, that this is related to the 'content' of the Pride parade. We want to make sure that those are not factors in the decision on the permit."
Adams maintained that organizers will put together a "family-friendly" event that many in Aurora, which as a community has been largely forward-thinking with regards to promulgating LGBT rights, are looking forward to.
"There is excitement in the city," he said. "What's problematic is that this one committee … has allowed this to become a very ideologically-driven process."
Statewide LGBT advocacy organization Equality Illinois supported the ACLU action. In a Feb. 12 statement, CEO Brian Johnson said, "The Aurora City Council's Government Operations Committee has the responsibility on Tuesday to act without further delay in granting the permit for the city's first-ever Pride Parade on June 17.
"As the second largest city in Illinois, Aurora should have a Pride Parade to celebrate its LGBTQ community and allies. Any further delay would be unacceptable and irresponsible; it would give credence to perceptions that it is simply an attempt to cater to people who don't like the fact that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer residents are part of the fabric of the Aurora community and to throw roadblocks in the way of parade organizers."
"… We call on all fair-minded Aurora residents to contact the committee membersAlds. Scheketa Hart-Burns, Rick Mervine, Judd Lofchie, and Carl Francoto tell them to end the delay and grant the parade permit."