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ACLU Suit Provokes Granting of Parade Permit;
More Than 200 March for Lesbian and Gay Pride in Chattanooga
For IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 14, 1993
CHATTANOOGA -- Spurred by an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit,
the Chattanooga Police Department has issued a hotly contested parade
permit for the Chattanooga Lesbian and Gay Pride Committee, allowing more
than 200 people to march on June 13 in a celebration of gay visibility and
a call for gay and lesbian rights.
"This year's parade -- which was twice the size of last year's --
celebrated not only gay pride, but also our protection under the First
Amendment," said Marvin Parker, one of the parade organizer. "Because we
were able to march down the route we had selected -- rather than the
deserted warehouse district the City Council picked for us -- we achieved
recognition in Chattanooga and opened up a dialogue about gay rights
The ACLU's national Lesbian and Gay Rights Project and the ACLU of
Tennessee had filed suit on behalf of the Pride Committee on June 2, after
the committee itself had sought the parade permit for three months.
Despite the Committee's repeated efforts, the Chattanooga City Council
refused to grant the group a permit for its desired march route through a
residential district. Instead, because of opposition within that district,
the City Council on its own initiative issued a permit for a parade
through an industrial zone.
"The City Council's decision to shunt this parade aside because of
its controversial message blatantly violated the right to free expression
guaranteed to all Americans," said Marc E. Elovitz, Staff Counsel to the
ACLU national Lesbian and Gay Rights Project and lead attorney on the
"City streets must be made available for parades and marches on a
content-neutral basis," Elovitz said. "A city council or any other city
official cannot sit in judgment of the viewpoints of city residents."
Two days after the ACLU lawsuit was filed, Chattanooga Police Chief
Ralph Cothran exercised his authority to grant a permit for the
residential route. Although his decision, allowed the 1993 pride parade to
go forward as scheduled, it did not solve the underlying problem of
Chattanooga's impermissible system for considering and granting such
permits. The ACLU challenge will continue until Chattanooga adopts a
constitutional system, one that carefully limits the discretion of city
officials and prohibits decisions based upon the message of any march.
"The Police Chief's quick decision saved the City from having to
defend itself in an emergency hearing," said Ruth E. Harlow, another ACLU
attorney working on the litigation.
"But Chattanooga must still reform its permit-granting scheme so
others are not silenced or hampered," she added. "Lesbians and gay men
have advanced civil liberties for all Chattanoogans by fighting this
The case is pending before United States District Judge R. Allan
Edgar in Chattanooga. Judge Edgar has scheduled a case conference for June
24. In addition to Elovitz and Harlow, the plaintiffs are represented by
Jay Ku of Chattanooga.
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