ACLU of Hawai'i Files Lawsuit Over Exclusion of Gay Groups From "Family Day" Parade

Affiliate: ACLU of Hawaii
June 27, 2003 12:00 am

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ACLU of Hawaii
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HONOLULU-The American Civil Liberties Union of Hawai’i today filed a lawsuit against city and county officials and a local Christian group for conspiring to exclude gay groups from the Family Day Parade scheduled to take place on July 5.

“”The facts show that the Family Day Parade is a joint venture between the city and the Hawai’i Christian Coalition, and the city advertised the parade as open to the entire community and invited everyone to join,”” said Brent White, Legal Director of the ACLU of Hawai’i and lead attorney in the case. “”However, as soon as our clients sought to participate, the city changed its mind. This is discrimination and it is not allowed under the Constitution.””

The ACLU’s lawsuit, PFLAG et al v. City and County of Honolulu et al., was filed in U.S. District Court on behalf of three gay rights organizations: Parents, Family Friends of Lesbian and Gays (PFLAG) of O’ahu, The Center, and Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Transgender Family Network. The lawsuit asks the court to order the inclusion of the gay groups into the parade.

After administrative attempts to prevent the groups from participating in the parade failed, the event was then billed as a privately sponsored event funded by the Christian Coalition. As such, representatives with the Coalition declined to allow the groups participation based on the Coalition’s anti-homosexual beliefs.

“”Exclusion of gay individuals from the Family Day Parade, because of our views and who we are, violates our First Amendment rights,”” said Michael Golojuch, Jr. of PFLAG of O’ahu. “”We wish to join the parade in celebration of gay and lesbian families, just as other families are allowed to join the parade.””

According to the ACLU’s complaint, city officials and the Hawai’i Christian Coalition have widely promoted the parade as a co-sponsored event. Using taxpayer funds, the city extensively advertised the Family Day Festival through flyers, radio commercials, the city website and posters in city buildings and on city buses. According to these advertisements, the event will include a parade, entertainment, displays, food, fireworks and a movie.

The parade is scheduled to include a variety of participants, ranging from local and mainland bands, floats and clowns to a motorcade of city vehicles, marching groups, and “”classic”” cars. Information on the city and Hawai’i Christian Coalition websites and a flyer sent by the city to The Center invited public participation. “”Everyone is welcome to join this parade,”” the flyer stated.

ACLU attorneys contend that their clients repeatedly followed the requirements to participate in the parade but were frustrated at every turn. For weeks, city and Christian Coalition members sought to discourage them from joining the parade through a variety of means including failing to fax parade applications as promised, lying about the application deadline, refusing to accept the applications, excluding plaintiffs from parade organizational meetings and general verbal harassment and hostility.

When representatives from the gay rights groups persisted, city officials and the Christian Coalition changed their tactics and contended that the parade is actually a privately sponsored event under the auspices of the Hawai’i Christian Coalition. Garret Hashimoto, state chair of the Hawai’i Christian Coalition and one of the named defendants in the lawsuit, wrote letters to the ACLU’s clients saying that the reason for denying their parade application was the Coalition’s religious belief that homosexuality is immoral.

Other defendants in the lawsuit are: Mayor Jeremy Harris, Deputy Managing Director Malcolm Tom, Deputy Director of Facility Maintenance Alvin Au, and Family Day Parade Committee Chair Paulette Williams.

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