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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Thursday, June 24, 2004

City to open parades to all

By David Waite
Advertiser Courts Writer

Parades and other events sponsored or co-sponsored by the city would be open to virtually anyone who wants to participate under a new set of rules being drafted by the city.

The new rules are part of a settlement between the city and the American Civil Liberties Union of Hawai'i, which sued the city last year on behalf of six Honolulu residents and three gay rights organizations.

The proposed settlement terms were placed on the record in federal court yesterday.

The ACLU said the city used public money and other resources to promote the evangelical beliefs of the Hawai'i Christian Coalition during the 2003 Family Day Parade, which barred several gay and lesbian groups.

In addition to the new rules, which are expected to be approved by the City Council within 45 days, the city will post a diversity statement on its web site saying it "respects all of its residents and welcomes all of its visitors regardless of race, color, sex, marital status, religion, national origin, ancestry, age, disability, gender identification, or sexual orientation."

The city will waive the first $2,500 in costs to set up cones and prepare signs for "First Amendment Events" such as the Martin Luther King Parade, gay and lesbian parades and anti-war protests.

Lois Perrin, legal director of the ACLU's Hawai'i office, said the new parade rules and diversity statement are part of the "global settlement" of three lawsuits brought against the city by individuals as well as Parents, Family and Friends of Lesbians and Gays of O'ahu; the Gay Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Family Network; and The Center.

"This global settlement reaffirms basic constitutional principles — the government cannot censor speech or exclude people from public events simply because officials do not agree with the participants' sexual orientation, gender identity or their message," Perrin said.

City Deputy Corporation Counsel Greg Swartz, said the City Council must approve the new rules and sign off on the payment of up to $85,000 in legal fees and court costs to the ACLU.

Swartz said he does not expect the council to object to the new parade rules.

He said the settlement does not include a statement of wrongdoing by the city nor an apology.

While the rules may be subject to differing interpretations, Perrin said the ACLU is "prepared to defend anyone to the extent we feel the rules are being discriminately applied to them."

Reach David Waite at 525-8030 or at dwaite@honoluluadvertiser.com.