Aurora City Council committee greenlights city's 1st Pride Parade
by Carrie Maxwell, Windy City Times
Aurora's City Council Government Operations Committee approved, by a vote of 2 to 0, Indivisible Aurora's permit request to hold the city's first Pride Parade on June 17 at 1 p.m.
The vote took place Feb. 13 at Aurora City Hall amidst a packed house of more than 100 people, a majority of them LGBTQ supporters, after a three-month delay due to local religious leaders concerns.
Aldermen Rick Mervine and Judd Lofchie voted in favor of the measure while Committee Chair and Alderman Scheketa Hart-Burns did not vote or voice her abstention.
Newly elected African-American Mayor Richard Irvin urged the committee to approve the parade ahead of the vote.
The parade was spearheaded by Indivisible Aurora founder and Executive Director Chuck Adams, who also spoke during the meeting.
Prior to the vote, Hart-Burns noted her objection to the date of the parade ( Father's Day ), what transpired in the intervening months between parade organizers and committee members, and religious leaders request for an impact study to be done before the committee voted. During her remarks, Hart-Burns appeared to be hostile to having the parade and repeated that she still did not have the answers she needed on this issue.
Aurora Community Relations and Public Information Special Events Manager Gina Moga explained the approval process for new events. Moga noted June 17 was the only open Sunday on the city's event calendar during pride month.
Both proponents and opponents of the parade made statements prior to the vote.
Chuck Adams ( who also noted his preferred pronouns ) noted the suicide statistics among LGBTQ youth and said the parade has the potential to save lives.
"It is about ensuring that every member of the LGBTQ community knows they are an important part of the fabric of this community," said Adams. "It is about affirming a population that has been beaten, shamed, ostracized and told to stay in the closet. Today we kick that closet door wide open in Aurora."
Adams' remarks drew applause from the crowd.
Aurora resident and New England Congregational Church Rev. Gary McCann noted his church is LGBTQ affirming and said having a Pride Parade in the city is the right thing to do.
The mother of a transgender son and longtime Aurora resident, Joanne Kenyon, asked the committee to approve the parade while HRC Chicago Steering Committee member Penelope Garcia ( who identifies as transgender ) said this vote goes beyond a parade.
Aurora residents Margaret and Howard West, parents of a transgender lesbian daughter, also voiced their support for the parade. Both noted that the vote should note have required this much controversy and LGBTQ people pay taxes and vote and they should be afforded the same rights as everyone else.
UCC minister Rev. Karon Van Gelder noted that it was easier to get Detroit's Pride Parade approved 40 years ago while Open Door Clinic Aurora's Sally Bice spoke about the discrimination that her patients face and how much this parade would mean to them.
Aurora Human Relations Commission Vice-Chair William Small read the city ordinance that includes an LGBTQ non-discrimination clause and urged the committee to approve the permit.
Among the parade opponents were speakers Marjorie Logman, Tim Padilla and A Future and A Hope Foundation Executive Director Dan Hass.
Logman brought up the controversy surrounding last year's Toronto Pride Parade, the "problems" she believes the parade might bring to the city and the parade date to explain why she objects to the parade.
Padilla noted that he has stood with the Chicago Pride Parade opponents at the end of the parade route in the past.
"Aurora has been a family town and the Pride Parade is not a family event," said Padilla. "Seeing naked people on a float gyrating is not what people need to see in Aurora. Keep it in Chicago."
Following the vote, cheers erupted from the audience.
"The vote is a victory for all of Aurora, not just Indivisible Aurora or the LGBTQ community," said Chuck Adams. "This is a move to a more inclusive city that Mayor Richard Irvin has made a priority."
Pride Parade Planning Co-Chair Kimberly Adams ( married to Chuck Adams ) explained that Indivisible Aurora will be paying for the entire cost of the parade and they have already raised half of the money. She said people will now be able to apply to march in the parade and noted the application will be made available in the coming days.
"We are going to work closely with the city to have vendors present, advertise so Aurora businesses will be flooded with customers and are hoping to have a wide variety of parade participants from across the city," said Kimberly Adams. "We are excited that we get to move forward after tonight's vote."
As attendees were leaving the building, a few members of the anti-LGBTQ group Love Kills Pride were handing out palm cards.
A number of parade supporters celebrated their victory at the nearby Ballydoyle Irish Pub.
This vote came on the heels of a letter written by ACLU of Illinois Senior Staff Attorney Rebecca Glenberg to City of Aurora Corporation Counsel Richard Veenstra stating that the reasons behind the objections to the parade were a violation of the first amendment. A written statement also came from by Equality Illinois CEO Brian C Johnson urging the committee to stop delaying the vote and approve the permit.