Elk Grove Village plans to repeal opposite sex clothing ban

A 1961 Elk Grove Village ordinance banning people from wearing clothes "properly belonging to the opposite sex" is scheduled for repeal by the village board next Wednesday morning, heading off a planned protest by a group later that afternoon.

Organizers of the "Say It With Pride Equality Now!" event announced Tuesday plans for the rally and protest at the Elk Grove clock tower. But village officials announced in a late Thursday afternoon news release they plan to wipe the antiquated law from the books during a special meeting at 10 a.m. Wednesday, June 30.

That was news to Jim Naughton, a local attorney who alerted Mayor Craig Johnson to the code provision a year ago, and again recently.

"I'm very glad that the village is doing it," Naughton told the Daily Herald Friday. "In terms of equity, it's a step forward. I wish it would have happened a year ago, and I wish municipalities were aware of their own codes."

Naughton, a 2011 Elk Grove High School graduate now working for a Chicago legal aid nonprofit, discovered the provision during a review of the village codes.

"I have an interest in local government. One day I just decided to check the municipal code and I saw it in there and I was like, 'What is this?'" Naughton said. "I brought it up and I guess it kind of turned into a thing."

Naughton said the mayor told him a year ago he'd work with the village's attorneys to get the law off the books - and promised it wouldn't be enforced. Recently, local student activist Kaylyn Ahn asked Naughton to check if the clothing language was still part of the municipal code. When Naughton found it was, he followed up with Johnson.

Then came the village news release.

"We are eager to erase this dated law, which contradicts our community values, from our books," Johnson wrote. "While the ordinance is unenforceable and would not stand up to legal scrutiny in any way whatsoever, it simply goes against our commitment to building and fostering an inclusive, open and welcoming community."

The mayor said Friday the law was to be repealed last year as a part of a massive review and rewrite of other old code language but got delayed by the pandemic. While the other ordinance updates are still to come - including a provision about using profanity on public streets - Johnson said the village will address Naughton's request first.

"We will take care of this one segment, then we will take care of the rest," he said.

The village board vote to repeal will come on the last day of Pride Month, and after the mayor and trustees earlier signed off on a proclamation recognizing the month in the village. Johnson also attended a Pride celebration June 13 at Prince of Peace United Methodist Church on Arlington Heights Road.

But so far, he's resisted calls from Ahn and others, including Cook County Commissioner Kevin Morrison, to fly the Pride flag at the municipal complex. Johnson said it's been long-standing village policy to fly only the U.S., Illinois and village flags, and he's rejected requests from groups to fly other flags in the past.

Morrison, an Elk Grove Village native who is the first openly LGBTQ Cook County commissioner, on Friday issued a statement encouraging Johnson to fly the rainbow flag, while also commending him for making the changes to village code.

"This is a powerful example of all bodies of government doing the necessary work of removing antiquated and unconstitutional language from their codes," said Morrison, whose 15th District includes Elk Grove Village.

Morrison wrote an ordinance, approved unanimously by county commissioners Thursday, that prohibits the county from asking a person's sex on documents and forms unless the information is required for medical reasons, data collection or by law.

During a review of other suburban Cook County municipal codes, Naughton discovered similar language against wearing clothes of the opposite sex in Des Plaines and Schaumburg. The 1960 Schaumburg ordinance and the 1963 Des Plaines ordinance both make it unlawful for someone to appear in public "in a dress not belonging to his sex" and are listed as offenses under headings for indecent exposure.

As he did with Johnson, Naughton said he planned to write to the mayors of the two other Northwest suburban towns to get them to scrub those laws from their books.

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Craig Johnson
Kevin Morrison

Section 6-6-3-4

Current ordinance: "It shall be unlawful for any person to commit any indecent or immoral act or to appear in any public place in clothes properly belonging to the opposite sex or not properly or decently garbed."

Proposed update: "It shall be unlawful for any person to commit any indecent or immoral act in any public place."

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