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Iowa Mayor Blocks LGBTQ+ Group From Labor Day Parade, Citing ‘Safety’ Concerns

Iowa Mayor Blocks LGBTQ+ Group From Labor Day Parade, Citing ‘Safety’ Concerns

Iowa Protest

No threats had been received, according to parade organizers and participants.

The mayor of a small Iowa town unilaterally decided to exclude an LGBTQ+ group from participating in the community’s Labor Day parade.

A drag performer who anticipated riding in a convertible as part of the group said they received notice of the decision via email.

Shenandoah Pride planned to have a small group walking with a banner and a drag performer riding in a convertible, handing out candy, popsicles, and stickers. The parade was part of a four-day festival in Essex, a municipality of about 720 inhabitants.

On Thursday, the parade’s organizer emailed Ryan Fuller, who intended to ride in the convertible as Cherry Peaks, informing him of the determination, TheDes Moines Registerreports.

As Fuller explained, Essex Mayor Calvin Kinney unilaterally decided without seeking City Council consent. Council Member Heather Thornton, who disagreed with the action, said, “It was the mayor himself,” and added that he believed he had sufficient authority to proceed without council approval.

Shenandoah Pride member Jessa Bears said the decision left her “shocked and angry, then just very sad and motivated to get the word out.”

She said the ban had brought more attention to the organization than the parade alone.

A primary reason for Shenandoah Pride’s participation was to inform people that Southwest Iowa is home to a vibrant queer community.

Thornton, who serves on the club board that invited the pride group to attend, said the groups that organized the event “fully supported their efforts and are just as upset as everyone else that they were excluded.”

A letter from the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa to the Essex mayor and to city attorney Mahlon Sorensen condemned the decision to exclude Shenandoah Pride.

The ACLU cited a Thursday email from the mayor in which he wrote, “Out of concern for the safety of the public and that of Essex Labor Day parade participants, the City of Essex has determined not to allow parade participants geared toward the promotion of, or opposition to, the politically charged topic of gender and/or sexual identification/orientation,” the ACLU said.

As far as Bears is aware, there were no threats against Shenandoah Pride’s participation in the parade. Rather, she said, many people had expressed support for the group’s involvement.

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