A letter-writer to the online news publication, oakpark.com, decried the Oak Park Fourth of July Parade's inclusion of the Lakeside Pride Freedom Marching Band, as well as entries addressing other social issues, on June 6. The letter was reprinted at chicagotribune.com as well.
In a letter to the editor, Anne Thinnes of Oak Park wrote: "I did not go there to be put in a controversial, political position of gay rights and gun violence. #Blacklivesmatter. Really... on this day more than any other day, doesn't all life matter? Why is this even in a parade of celebration, to depress our spirit?
"This was not the time nor the place for these displays. The gay representation with the flamboyantly dressed marchers and the band overshadowed any flag waving of respect and honor that we should show on our country's birthday. I am not denying their right to walk but they were not a true representation of the American spirit or all Oak Park residents."
Lakeside Pride's performance was sponsored both by the Oak Park Area Lesbian and Gay Association ( OPALGA ) and the Village of Oak Park.
Colette Lueck, OPALGA co-chair and a village trustee, said that she was struck by the range of supportive comments that were posted in response to Thinnes' letter.
"Those weren't all from LGBT folks either" Lueck said. "They came from parents with children, all kinds of people. In the end, [diversity is] what Oak Park is about."
Bradley Fritz, board chair of Lakeside Pride Music Ensembles, shared Lueck's sentiment. In a statement he sent to Windy City Times, Fritz said, "We were especially excited this year to participate in the parade with our brand new uniforms. These uniforms represent a significant step forward for the band's professional appearance, and were designed to be appropriate for many different types of performances. While we would love to have different uniforms tailored to each specific performance, this isn't feasible for a small, non-profit music organization. Most marching bands, including high school and college, march with one uniform sporting school colors, even during Fourth of July parades.
"The Lakeside Pride Music Ensembles are focused on sharing our love of music with the communities in which our members live, including Oak Park. … The Fourth of July is not about honoring the three colors on our flag. It's about celebrating the greatness of a country that recognizes the strength in diversity, individual freedoms, and equal rights for all its citizens. That is what we bring to life with the music we performed at the Oak Park parade, and which we will continue to perform for many Fourth of July parades to come."
Lueck added that the letter nevertheless served as a reminder that the LGBT community has a lot of work ahead of it. "Gay marriage was not an end game. There's lots of prejudice out there. Nevertheless, I would rather have that viewpoint appear like this, out in the open, rather than just have it fester behind our backs. People have a right to disagree. She had a right to write what she did. But we have a right to point out that that is a distorted view."
The original letter can be read at: www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/oak-park/news/ct-oak-fourth-of-july-letter-tl-0709-20150706-story.html .