ACLU of Illinois calls on local political leaders to protect free speech

The ACLU of Illinois is calling on public officials to protect free speech in the face of protests against LGBTQ events in Illinois.

The ACLU of Illinois is calling on public officials to protect free speech in the face of protests against LGBTQ events in Illinois.

“In recent months, the ACLU of Illinois has come to the aid of groups and individuals whose expression has been threatened by those who object to events featuring content celebrating LGBTQ+ identity,” said Colleen K. Connell, executive director of the ACLU of Illinois. “In several instances, governmental entities have not fulfilled their responsibilities to protect those engaging in peaceful speech and activities – potentially allowing the classic ‘heckler’s veto’ to censor speech.” 

In an open letter to local officials, the ACLU said that well-funded, organized groups have loudly opposed LGBTQ events and have advocated for banning books with LGBTQ themes from libraries and schools.

Over the past year, multiple LGBTQ events across the Chicago suburbs have seen opposition, sometimes leading to cancellation in the face of threats or vandalism.

The letter released by the organization reminds local elected officials across the state – on local councils, school boards and even park district boards – that they “have an essential role to play in guarding against this threat, and in defending free speech” and protecting civil liberties.

The letter cited recent events such as UpRising Bakery being the target of vandalism and having its business license threatened as well as protestors trying to get Plainfield Pride cancelled over a drag queen story hour. Events and organizations from Buffalo Grove to Aurora have faced harassment and opposition.

The letter notes that “(l)ocal government officials have sometimes strayed from core First Amendment principles in “understandable, but misguided, attempts to avoid controversy or quiet discord in their communities,” but makes clear that the local officials must protect speech for everyone in their communities, and resist demands for censorship in any form. 

The ACLU letter further reminds that the First Amendment also protects loud public protest, including at public meetings, and it is urgent that local public bodies still permit public comment from all sides as part of their sessions. The ACLU encourages local elected officials to establish clear, neutral rules for public comment and adhere to those rules no matter the subject.

You can read the entire letter here.

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