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Ban Politicians From Pride Parade Over Gay Marriage Inaction, Petition Asks

By Emily Morris | June 4, 2013 9:52am | Updated on June 4, 2013 4:00pm
 Paradegoers celebrate at the Chicago Pride Parade in 2009.
Paradegoers celebrate at the Chicago Pride Parade in 2009.
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Flickr/Lost Albatross

CHICAGO — After Illinois legislators failed to vote on same-sex marriage, fed up Gold Coast resident Curtis Bumgarner decided to create an online petition proposing to ban all Illinois politicians from participating in this year's Chicago Pride Parade.

"IF YOU CAN'T HELP US — WHY SHOULD WE HELP YOU?" Bumgarner, 31, wrote.

On Friday, the Illinois legislative session came to an end, and hopes for gay people to marry in the state were put on hold as representatives did not vote on the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act.

The next opportunity for lawmakers to vote on the bill is during the fall legislative session.

Those who opposed the measure, which would allow gay couples to obtain a civil marriage with the same benefits as straight couples, argued that same-sex marriage would be harmful for children and families.

 Curtis Bumgarner created a petition proposing that politicians not be allowed to participate in this year's Chicago Pride Parade.
Curtis Bumgarner created a petition proposing that politicians not be allowed to participate in this year's Chicago Pride Parade.
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DNAinfo and Facebook/Curtis Bumgarner

On activism website Change.org, Bumgarner started a petition to deny Illinois politicians entry into the 44th Annual Chicago Pride Parade on June 30.

On Tuesday morning, the petition had just more than 900 signatures. By the afternoon, it had garnered more than 1,400.

"I wasn't expecting this to go this crazy," said Bumgarner,  who created the online campaign mainly as a response to Friday's indecision.

In the petition, Bumgarner proposes that if Illinois representatives won't support same-sex marriage, spectators shouldn't be subjected to them asking for votes during the parade.

And while he originally had congressional representatives in mind when he created the petition, Bumgarner said he soon decided he was disappointed with Illinois politicians in general. 

"Everyone needs to be held accountable," said Bumgarner, who has been engaged to his partner since March.

Bumgarner said that while he's always been an outspoken supporter of same-sex marriage, his current relationship personalized the marriage fight for him.

And beyond Friday's events, Bumgarner said he's felt the parade has been "invaded by politicians" over the past few years.

"I just want one day when we can celebrate within our community," said Bumgarner, who works as the CEO of medical supply company Luna, Inc. and once volunteered for the Human Rights Campaign.

Chicago Pride Parade spokesman Richard Pfeiffer said in an email that "there are no plans to ban elected officials."

"Parade Day should not be a day of division, but rather one of pride, love and unity," Pfeiffer said.

And some Chicago Democrats responded that banning city officials would be "counterproductive" to the LGBT effort. 

Many of the elected officials in the city aren't congressional representatives and didn't have a say in the decision not to call same-sex marriage to a vote, said Metropolitan Water Reclamation District Commissioner Debra Shore, an openly gay Democrat and a regular in Chicago's Pride festivities.

She said she hadn't seen the petition on Tuesday, but if it means not allowing representatives from the city to participate, "I don't think that serves anyone."

"The Pride Parade is an opportunity to celebrate the rich culture and presence of the LGBT community, and that includes celebrating and acknowledging the achievement of those of us that have stepped up and run for office," Shore said. "It is counterproductive to single out one issue or a handful of elected officials from our community and seek to deny them the recognition they deserve."

Cook County Democrats Executive Director Scott Cisek also contested the petition and posted on Facebook that the ones calling for politicians to stay out of the parade are "same people who phone their alderman to complain about bills in Springfield, the same people who do not know their state rep's name."

"If this is a response to the inability to get it [the same-sex marriage bill] passed by the end of the spring session, I don't see how banning your local aldermen or, say, the county sheriff from Pride sends any kind of message," Cisek told DNAinfo.com Chicago.

"I'm confident we will be participating in Pride on some level whether we're invited to have a float or not," Cisek said.