Did Aurora Pride Step Out of Line? No. Not at all.

The Aurora Pride parade was almost canceled this past Pride Month due to a controversy involving police officers not being allowed to participate in full uniform.


Bee Bishop, Managing Editor

June is Pride Month, meant to be a celebration of the progress of the advancements in LGBTQ+ rights as well as a reminder that there is still more progress to be made. Pride marches are oftentimes as much a parade as they are protests. Bold and controversial stances are often front and center in the message. Aurora Pride, took one of those stances this year.. 

On May 24, Aurora Pride, the organization behind the Aurora Pride parade, released a press release stating that police officers who wished to participate in the parade would do so out of uniform, without service weapons and without any official vehicles. 

Which sounds absolutely bonkers when taken at face value. Why are we restricting police officers and not anyone else? Seems rather targeted and unjust of Aurora Pride to do so. However, that’s taking that issue at face value. There’s a lot of traumatic history between the LGBTQ+ community and law enforcement agencies in the past; The Stonewall riots being a prime example of the rocky history between the two groups. Realistically speaking, it makes more sense to cut officers out entirely: why would you want to invite the person kicking you in the teeth to your birthday party? Why pretend to be friendly and familiar with someone who hurt you? 

The reason Aurora Pride stated for making the request was to make the parade a welcomed place for all individuals. The biggest concern was that the officer’s uniforms, weapons and vehicles would potentially cause distress among attendees who have had negative, harmful or violent interactions towards them or associates with law enforcement.

Later, in response to a letter sent by Richard Irvin, Aurora’s mayor and one of the Republican candidates for the Illinois gubernatorial race, Aurora Pride stated that soft uniforms– such as shirts with patches or logos on them– would be accepted for officers who participate in the parade, as well as any banners or floats that are dedicated to the Aurora Police Department.

“This is simply an effort to foster goodwill between multiple groups of important Aurorans,” the letter said. “Participation by law enforcement officers in civilian clothes, clearly identified as law enforcement officers by signs, banners, t-shirts, and the like, would almost certainly be perceived as an olive branch.”

This, to me, is a perfectly fine request. Are individuals being blocked from attending the parade? No. Are individuals being asked to denounce a part of their identity or place of work? No. Simply, Aurora Pride is enforcing a dress code, so that attendees in the parade are not distressed at the sight of a uniform that is related to a traumatic or negative experience and participants are able to express all facets of their identities. It is a good compromise that allows the inclusion of the police and allows them to help cultivate a positive relationship with the community while also subtly calling attention to the fact that law enforcement has a history of being antagonistic towards the LGBTQ+ community in the past. 

However Irvin, in response to the announcement, made an announcement of his own: Irvin would not be participating in the parade. Additionally, the City of Aurora would not have a float in the parade according to a CBS news article on the topic, published on May 31.

“One of the basic principles of community policing is to have the police who serve in uniform represent the communities they serve,” Irvin said, as quoted by CBS. “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.’”

The original press release Aurora Pride made said the intention is not to force people to hide who they are and gave appreciation to the officers who work hard to maintain good community relationships between law enforcement and marginalized communities. 

“It’s our hope that law enforcement participants clearly identify themselves with a banner, float, t-shirts, or the like, as we want to show that law enforcement is one of many things LGBTQ+ young people can see themselves becoming one day,” the statement said. “While we are critical of the actions of some officers and the weaknesses in police organizations, we appreciate the good work done every day by good officers, risking their lives to make everyone safer.”

Intention never equals impact, however many companies in the past have offered similar statements after harming the LGBTQ+ community and the community is supposed to take that and accept it wholeheartedly. Why is the Aurora Police Department and City of Aurora unable to do the same?

The irony in all of this is the fact that LGBTQ+ individuals have had to hide their identity for decades. Today there are still parts of the United States where is it safer to be closeted and dealing with the toll on an individual’s mental health rather than out and proud about your identity and risking an individual’s physical safety. But yet the second officers are asked to dress down and wear soft uniforms or not have service weapons on their persons or ride around in official police cars, there’s an uproar about “exclusion” or “intolerance.” 

The right to marry is not and will never be the end of the fight for LGBTQ+ rights. Healthcare, home ownership, media representation and job security are just a few of the many systematic issues still plaguing the LGBTQ+ community. Among those issues is the tumultuous relationship with law enforcement. This clashing of ideologies will always lead to conflicts like this. 

But it should be the oppressors, the people who built and maintain the system to take the first action to move towards a better and more tolerant future. It doesn’t make sense to apologize to the bully for hurting their hand after you’ve been hit. If APD is truly concerned with building a relationship with Aurora Pride and the LGBTQ+ community, it is their responsibility to reach out first, with an olive branch in hand, to meet them halfway.