Aurora mayor Irvin withdraws from Pride parade, removes city float over police uniform dispute

Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin will not march in the Aurora Pride parade because event organizers have forbidden police officers from marching in the June 12 procession while in uniform.

Irvin also withdrew the city's float from the parade, he said late Tuesday.

And city officials will conduct a gay pride flag-raising ceremony without the Aurora Pride organization, he said.

Irvin, also a Republican candidate for governor, said police officers and commanders disagree with an option to march while in a "soft uniform," such as a polo shirt with police department insignia. Aurora Pride had suggested that last week after Irvin criticized the group's decision about not allowing police uniforms and police vehicles in the June 12 parade.

"The impacted officers and the command staff of the Aurora Police Department are not in agreement with this, and I stand with our officers," Irvin said in a news release.

"One of the basic principles of community policing is to have the police who serve in uniform represent the communities they serve. Our LGBTQ officers, like most officers, do just that while regularly interacting with residents in their identifiable standard uniforms, not someone else's narrowed view and censored definition of a 'soft uniform,'" Irvin said.

The city is an official supporter of the parade.

Over the weekend, the American Civil Liberties Union warned Irvin that he'd better not take any retaliatory action against the parade.

Parade organizers have a First Amendment right to determine the content of the procession, according to a letter sent to the mayor and the city's corporation counsel on Sunday.

"The ACLU of Illinois is concerned by reports that government officials have apparently attempted to pressure the organization Aurora Pride to alter the composition of this year's Pride Parade. ... Please be advised that the First Amendment to the United States Constitution protects Aurora Pride's right to control the message of its parade, which includes the composition and appearance of marchers," wrote Rebecca K. Glenberg, senior staff attorney for the ACLU's Illinois chapter.

Glenberg said it would be illegal to revoke or alter the parade's permit just because the mayor or other city officials don't like the stance Aurora Pride has taken. The city also can't increase what Aurora Pride has to pay, including by increasing insurance requirements, security requirements, cleanup costs or any other fees or costs; have police try to march in the parade in police uniforms; fail to protect the parade from intimidation or violence; harass parade organizers and participants; or otherwise interfere in the parade, Glenberg wrote.

She cited a 1995 U.S. Supreme Court decision that declared the organizers of a St. Patrick's Day parade in Boston did not have to allow a group of gay, bisexual and lesbian people to march in that parade. The government had no right to order the parade organizers to include a group that organizers believed was contrary to the message of the parade, the court ruled.

Aurora Pride announced on May 24 that it would not allow police officers to march in the parade in their uniforms. It also said they could not carry their service weapons.

It said officers could march as a group while wearing other clothing, or carrying a banner or signs, identifying themselves as police officers.

Aurora Pride said some people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or queer have been harassed by police - not necessarily Aurora police - and having uniformed officers in the parade could make them anxious or create tension and animosity.

Aurora mayor criticizes gay pride parade organizers for banning uniformed police from participating

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