Aurora approves city's first gay pride parade

Illinois' second-largest city will soon have its first gay pride parade.

The Aurora Pride Parade is set to step off at 1 p.m. Sunday, June 17, bringing an event celebrating the LGBTQ community to a city that loves to promote its diversity.

Organizers with the progressive group Indivisible Aurora said the parade will be "G-rated" and "family-friendly" as it affirms the identity of those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning.

For people who are afraid to acknowledge their true identity, Chuck Adams, founder and executive director of Indivisible Aurora, said the parade will be more than a procession of floats.

"This parade is bigger than that," Adams said Tuesday before an Aurora City Council committee decided the fate of the parade. "It's about ensuring that every member of the LGBTQ community knows they are an important member of this community."

The Government Operations committee, which oversees parade permits, voted 2-0 in favor of allowing the parade. Alderman Scheketa Hart-Burns, chairwoman of the committee, abstained.

Hart-Burns said parade organizers did not provide enough information to the committee about the logistics, safety and financing of their plans, and she asked for the full council to vote on whether to allow the parade. But city procedure specifies that the Government Operations committee makes the final determination on parade permits.

So when Aldermen Richard Mervine and Judd Lofchie voted in favor of allowing the event, many members among a crowd of 150 cheered and Indivisible Aurora leaders knew they had the green light.

"Love here, the day before Valentine's Day, is greater than any kind of fear or hate that can come," said Penelope Garcia, a transgender Aurora resident.

Questions about the parade came from members of some Aurora faith groups and individual residents, who worried a pride parade might bring nudity or unlawful behavior. Four people spoke against the parade and 10 in favor before the committee voted.

"Aurora has been a family town and this is not a family parade," Tim Padilla of Aurora said. "We do not have a stripper parade."

Adams said organizers do not know the exact content of the parade because they have not yet reached out to groups about making floats.

But he said the parade aims to be a positive event suitable for families. He said Indivisible Aurora will cover the full cost, which he estimates at between $5,000 and $6,000, and the group raised half of the funds within six weeks.

The timing of the parade, which falls on Father's Day, also drew some questions.

But Gina Moga, special events manager, said the city provided that date to avoid conflicts with other activities, such as shows at the Paramount Theatre and a fundraiser at RiverEdge Park. She said the city hosts parades only on Sundays, so as not to disrupt downtown business, and when Indivisible Aurora asked for a date in June to coincide with Gay Pride Month, only the 17th was available.

Now Moga said the city will work with Indivisible Aurora to hire police to provide safety during the event at the group's cost. With approval granted, planning and fundraising for the parade is set to continue.

"I commend the committee for doing the right thing," Mayor Richard Irvin said, "by approving Aurora's first gay pride parade."

  Chuck Adams, founder and executive director of Indivisible Aurora, speaks Tuesday during the a meeting of the Government Operations committee, which approved Indivisible's request to host Aurora's first gay pride parade on June 17. Mark Black/
  Aurora Pride Parade supporters with rainbow signs and scarves mixed with some faith community leaders and individual residents who opposed the city's first gay pride parade. The Government Operations committee approved a permit to allow the parade to take place June 17. Mark Black/
  Greg Elsbree of Aurora holds a pride flag Tuesday as he supported the first Aurora Pride Parade. The parade was granted a permit and is set to step off at 1 p.m. Sunday, June 17, in downtown Aurora. Mark Black/
  Alderman Scheketa Hart-Burns, chairwoman of the city council's Government Operations committee, says the full city council should have voted on whether to allow a gay pride parade to take place. But city procedure specifies that the committee has the final say. In a 2-0 vote with Hart-Burns abstaining, the committee approved the parade. Mark Black/
  About 150 people packed the Aurora City Council chambers Tuesday as the Government Operations committee weighed whether to allow the city's first gay pride parade to take place. The committee voted 2-0 in favor of granting the parade a permit for June 17, with Alderman Scheketa Hart-Burns, the chairwoman of the committee, abstaining. Mark Black/
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