Aurora Pride sues city over ordinance that almost canceled 2022 parade

A decorated Aurora Police car from the 2019 Aurora Pride Parade. Photo by Tom Wray

Aurora Pride, represented by the ACLU of Illinois, on Tuesday filed a federal lawsuit challenging the ordinance that led to the parade’s permit being revoked only a few days before it was to take place.

The 2022 Aurora Pride Parade was returning after a two-year pandemic and had gotten the needed permit. A group of Aurora police officers asked if they could march in the parade. Parade organizer Aurora Pride said yes and asked the marching police officers not to wear full uniforms and wear t-shirts or polo shirts instead.

Claiming that police had been banned from marching, Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin withdrew the city’s entry in the parade. Aurora Pride was later told that there were no longer enough police to provide security and that the permit would be pulled if there were not enough police present. The parade was canceled a week before it was to take place. After outcry and a threat of lawsuit, the city got enough police to provide security and restored the permit.

However, according to the ACLU, the city did that by paying police “triple time” to work the event. The city then charged Aurora Pride $43,000 for the security, more than twice the $21,000 that had originally been quoted.

At the time Irvin was also in a bitter primary campaign for the GOP nomination for Illinois governor.

“Our aim was to create a message of community support and peace for LGBTQ+ people in Aurora,” said Gwyn Ciesla, president of Aurora Pride. “That meant not including armed, uniformed police officers. When we refused to back down on this point to pressure from politicians, Aurora city officials threatened and revoked our permit. When we still would not relent, they claimed to ‘fix’ the problem they created, allowing the parade to move forward. But they expected Aurora Pride to foot the bill. And this was all made possible by this flawed ordinance.”

The lawsuit challenges Aurora’s Special Events Ordinance, which allowed Aurora police officers who disagreed with Aurora Pride’s constitutionally-protected message to exercise a “heckler’s veto” over the 2022 Pride Parade. 

“The Aurora ordinance is unconstitutional,” said Rebecca Glenberg, senior staff attorney at the ACLU of Illinois. “We have repeatedly pointed out to Aurora officials that our constitution does not give the Mayor or the police a veto over whether or not a parade or demonstration goes forward – simply because they do not like the message of the organizers.”

“We want to continue to make the Pride Parade a part of building support and hope for the LGBTQ+ community in Aurora,” added Ciesla. “But we should not be at the whim of elected officials or individual officers in the community in deciding how we send that message of love and support.”

The lawsuit seeks, among other things, an injunction preventing the City of Aurora from using the unconstitutional Special Events ordinance that was applied to Aurora Pride, and assure that the events of 2022 will not be repeated in the future.