Saturday, July 5, 2003


City doubletalk wins
in court case
on family parade


A federal judge has refused to order a conservative lobby to allow three gay rights groups to march in a parade of which the city had been described as cosponsor.

THE city rained on its own Independence Day parade when it partnered up with the Hawaii Christian Coalition. Somehow, city attorneys were able to convince a federal judge that the city is not a partner in sponsoring the parade and that the conservative lobby is totally in charge, even though city officials were listed as co-heads of the function on the city's Web site. This clumsy exercise must not be repeated.

The issue came to court when the American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii filed suit on behalf of three gay rights groups after the Christian Coalition refused to allow them to march in the parade. That refusal should not have been surprising, since one of the coalition's major causes is opposition to same-sex marriage, the legalization of which is at the top of the gay and lesbian agenda.

Private groups are allowed to obtain parade permits to march down streets, but that is not what happened in this case. The city was to be co-sponsor of the Independence Day parade and a Family Festival with entertainment, games and food booths in Kapiolani Park, scheduled for today so it would not compete with other Fourth of July celebrations.

The city's Web site listed Alvin Au, deputy director of the city Department of Facilities Management and a Kailua minister, as leading the parade committee. Sharon Ishii of the Mayor's Office and Cheryl Rzonca of the Trinity Broadcasting Network were listed as entertainment co-chairwomen.

U.S. District Judge Helen Gillmore ruled that the city is not a cosponsor of today's festivities because city officials say it's not, and that it is not providing any more assistance than it would provide to any organization hosting a major parade for the first time. Also, the judge noted, the Christian Coalition is paying its own insurance for the parade, while the city is liable for city-sponsored parades.

"We are very pleased that the court did not allow this Kids' Day event to become a political battleground over gay and lesbian issues," Mayor Harris said in a written statement following Gillmore's ruling. In fact, the mayor turned the parade into a political battleground by putting a highly adversarial political lobby in charge and, at the very least, creating the appearance that the city was joining hands with the Christian Coalition.

Gay and lesbian groups already had planned their own Gay Pride Parade for today without the knowledge that the city would have provided Au, Ishii or other city officials to share in organizing it and would have announced the event on its Web site. The mayor should feel obligated to provide that assistance and advertising for the next gay parade if he wishes city policy to be consistent.



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