Aurora joyfully raises Pride flag for the first time
Aurora raised an LGBTQ pride flag for the first time Friday in a ceremony attended by city workers, politicians, police officers and others.
Martin Luna, Jose Espinoza and their three sons -- 8-year-old Owen Lopez, 4-year-old Oliver Lopez and 2-year-old Remington Lopez -- had the honor of hoisting it up a flagpole at the One Aurora Plaza downtown on Galena Boulevard.
It concluded a nearly hourlong ceremony where the city honored several local members of the LGBTQ community, including Luna and Espinoza, by bestowing "Pride and Excellence" plaques.
"It's not often you get to be your authentic self, especially when it is not popular," Aurora police Sgt. Lee Catavu said when he received his plaque. But, he said, the Aurora Police Department has been welcoming to him.
"If it weren't for them (his colleagues), I'd not be able to stand before you as proudly as I am," Catavu said. Part of his job is being an official liaison to the LGBTQ community, starting in 2010.
Luna said the first gay pride parade in Aurora in 2018 was "the first time we (he and Espinoza) could walk down streets holding hands without being afraid."
Other award recipients included 20-year-old Adam Pauley, who proposed the city form an LGBTQ advisory board. The city announced Tuesday that it intends to do that. He had served on a student advisory board and was elected in 2021 to the Kane County Regional Office of Education board.
Pauley is a Republican precinct committeeman. He said people must be vigilant to make sure rights are not taken away from the LGBTQ community. He plans to introduce a resolution at the state party convention this summer to support marriage equality.
"I expect to be booed off the stage," Pauley said.
Before the ceremony, Mayor Richard Irvin, who is seeking the Republican nomination for governor, reaffirmed that he will not march in the Aurora Pride parade Sunday due to its stance on not having police officers march in uniform. He said organizers were being hypocritical because Aurora Pride had no problem with having uniformed police officers protect the parade.
The city had planned to collaborate with Aurora Pride for the flag-raising ceremony but made it a city-only event after Irvin withdrew himself and the city float from the parade in protest.
Irvin said he was glad the city and parade organizers were able to come up with enough police officers to provide security for the parade. The city had revoked the parade's permit earlier this week, citing a lack of police officers. The city reinstated the permit Thursday afternoon, saying that by offering triple pay, it had gotten enough officers to work at the parade.