Gay activist Curtis Bumgarner was so angry with the nonvote on marriage equality in Springfield last week that he created a petition asking for politicians to be banned from Chicago's Pride Parade June 30. It is posted here: www.change.org/petitions/deny-entry-of-illinois-politicians-in-44th-annual-chicago-pride-parade .
Rich Pfeiffer, head of Pride Chicago, the parade organizers, said: "There are no plans to ban elected officials. Parade Day should not be a day of division and rancor, but rather one of love, pride and unity."
I think all levels of pressure are needed in this effort, but I simply disagree with a ban on the politicians in the parade. I do, however, think some things can be done to connect the dots on this issue. There are also some relevant facts to note about Chicago's Pride Parade.
First, like almost every parade in Chicago (and like many gay prides across the country), the politicians do not pay an entry fee. This is the case whether they gang together in one contingent, or have a vehicle and take up one slot on their own. Why does that matter? Because there is a limited supply of slots, so if a politician takes one, they eliminate someone else.
Second, the deadline has passed for this year's parade, and only two state representatives, Greg Harris and Sara Feigenholtz, have registered.
A few years ago, when the number of politicians marching started to grow, Pfeiffer said they made an adjustment for those without vehicles. They allowed them to be grouped together near the front of the parade. Then organizers space the rest of the stand-alone contingents throughout the route. They no longer have all of the politicians up front, but it may still seem they do because of the grouping of the walkers as contingent No. 10.
In addition, even though other state representatives are not registered, they may still be allowed to march in the No. 10 slot, or they may in fact just join with any other of the political contingents along the route. Note, Attorney General Lisa Madigan has also not registered, nor has Speaker of the House Mike Madigan.
Here is a list of the politicians who have registered their own entry this year:
Rep. Greg Harris
Rep. Sara Feigenholtz and Sen. John Cullerton (combined)
Citizens for David Orr
U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky
U.S. Rep. Robin Kelley
Ald. Joe Moore
Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez
Ald. Danny Solis
Ald. Scott Waguespack
Cook County Democratic Party (includes County politicians)
Aldermen: Tom Tunney, Joe Moreno, John Arena (combined)
Friends of Sheriff Tom Dart
The Alliance of Illinois Judges
Ald. Harry Osterman
Those who are registered as part of contingent No. 10 are:
Lt. Governor Sheila Simon
U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley
Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle
Cook County Clerk of the Circuit Court Dorothy Brown
James Crawley, candidate for judge
Nancy Wade, Green Party candidate, for Congress
Michael Allen Strom for judge
By marching, these politicians will be able to hear the positive and negative comments from people. This is a free-speech country, and I think the Pride Parade is a wonderful opportunity to allow the public to speak. I wish those 850,000 people would have marched on Springfield or City Hall, but that will never happen. So, let's have them shout their love or anger directly to the politicians. (Or maybe just stay silent and turn your backs if you want to express yourself.)
Now for the recommendations:
The politicians should each be asked to pay a fee, and that money would go directly to the marriage equality group of their choice. The standard fees are $400 for non-profits; $825 for for-profits, and $1675 for corporate. Let's split the difference and pay the $825. Since there are only two state representatives registered, this would not be much money, but it would be nice if some of the other politicians were also asked to chip in this year as a sign of solidarity. It is unfair that they get to march without paying any fee at all, thus taking a slot from someone else.
This year, contingent No. 10 should be moved to No. 100, as a symbolic position in the middle of the parade, allowing more nonprofits and pro-gay religious groups to move up. The contingents in vehicles could follow behind those.
This is an easy compromise, one that allowed politicians in the parade, and helps the marriage equality efforts as well.