Aurora Pride gets first win in lawsuit against city

The court decision allows parade planning to go forward without worry.
One of the participants in the 2019 Aurora Pride Parade. Photo by Tom Wray

AURORA – A federal court has blocked an ordinance that almost got the state’s second largest Pride Parade cancelled last year.

In a ruling issued Friday, May 19, by U.S. District Court Judge Martha Pacold, the court found that parts of Aurora’s Special Events Ordinance could not be enforced because it allowed individual police officers the discretion to decide about the viability, scope and cost of protected speech in the community.

Aurora Pride, organizers of the city’s Pride Parade, filed a lawsuit in January challenging the ordinance that led to the parade’s permit being revoked only a few days before it was to take place.

The ACLU of Illinois, which represented Aurora Pride, said that as a result of the order the city is expected to grant a permit for the parade.

“We are ready to move forward with planning for the 2023 Pride Parade in Aurora,” said Gwyn Ciesla, president of Aurora Pride. “Aurora Pride is grateful we will once again be able to create the space to celebrate the LGBTQ+ community in Aurora, and that they will be able to gather and feel welcomed in their own community. This is a great outcome.”

Last year, the 2022 Aurora Pride Parade was returning after a two-year pandemic hiatus and had gotten the needed permit. A group of Aurora police officers asked if they could march in the parade. 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.

“The court clearly understood that our constitution does not allow police officers veto power over a parade or demonstration.” said Rebecca Glenberg, senior staff attorney at the ACLU of Illinois, one of the lawyers representing Aurora Pride. “The Aurora ordinance allowed officers to block a parade simply because they do not like the message of the organizers.”

“We welcome everyone to the 2023 Pride Parade and build hope and support for the LGBTQ+ community in Aurora,” Ciesla said. “As we see attacks on members of our community in states and communities across the country, it is crucial that Aurora be an open, welcoming place.”

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