CHICAGO – In a letter to the City of Aurora’s top lawyer, the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois today called on the City to act swiftly in approving a parade permit request from a local group planning to host the community’s first Pride Parade this coming June. The ACLU’s letter notes that any attempt to deny the permit or create onerous hurdles to the planners based on its content would “violate the First Amendment.”
A vote on the permit is set for Tuesday, February 13th, when the City’s Government Operations Committee meets. The ACLU letter cites recent events as raising questions as to whether the request will be dealt with fairly.
A group of local Aurora activists applied for the permit in November of 2017. What should have been a routine matter was delayed, when a group of local Aurora clergy expressed concerns about the event, suggesting the clergy needed more details about what was planned. The Chair of the Government Operations Committee – Alderman Scheketa Hart-Burns – reportedly met privately with the clergy and then with both the clergy and the parade organizers.
At that meeting a representative of the Aurora police department assured everyone in attendance that the police would be able to handle any problems that arose. Organizers reported to the ACLU of Illinois that the clergy’s complaints rested mainly on antiquated stereotypes of LGBT people.
The ACLU’s letter recognizes that all residents have a right to support or oppose any government matter, 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.”
In addition to addressing concerns about the Pride Parade proposal, the ACLU letter notes a number of deficiencies in the Aurora ordinance that governs approval of First Amendment activities. The letter encourages the City to amend these policies in the near future.
You can read the entire letter here.