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Mayor signs off on gay pride parade in Augusta

Copenhaver says he couldn't legally prevent June event downtown

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A gay pride parade on June 19 is a go. Augusta Mayor Deke Copenhaver signed off on it Thursday, according to Traffic Engineering Technician Dennis Ellis.

The mayor said he did so after receiving a legal opinion from the city attorney, which he requested after a barrage of phone calls and e-mails about the event.

The mayor conceded, in so many words, that he got the opinion for political cover. He said he knew what it would say, that the city "may not legally prevent a gay pride parade from occurring in Augusta-Richmond County," but he wanted people with strong feelings on both sides to hear it from the Law Department.

"For the benefit of all involved, I wanted to have the legal decision," he said. "I have a pretty good understanding of First Amendment law. I think it's best coming from a lawyer who understands case law."

The text of opinion, written by Interim General Counsel Andrew MacKenzie in a memo dated Wednesday, covered less than a page.

Quoting case law, he said it is undisputed that public streets " 'are quintessential public forums' for purposes of evaluating First Amendment rights to use such streets for parades ... Therefore, the City's right to limit expressive activity on these streets is 'sharply circumscribed.' "

Asked whether he feels Augusta should have the event, legalities aside, Copenhaver said: "As a constitutional officer, I'm sworn to uphold the law."

The parade will be part of a larger festival, which will include a concert at the Jessye Norman Amphitheater featuring Grammy-winning R&B singer Thelma Houston and Frenchie Davis of American Idol .

Augusta Pride has a $4,550 contract with the Recreation and Parks Department to rent the amphitheater, the Augusta Common and three bulkheads on Riverwalk Augusta. Vice President Alejandro Wade-Coronado said he expects the event to draw 4,000 to 8,000 people, including visitors from Atlanta, Savannah and Charleston.

Last week, Wade-Coronado requested that the north side of Broad Street between Sixth and 10th streets, and 10th Street from Broad to Reynolds streets, be blocked off from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m., and that Reynolds behind the common be closed from 6 a.m. to midnight. It required approval from the mayor, the sheriff's office, the fire department and the parks department, the latter three all signing off late last week or early this week.

Wade-Coronado, who met with the mayor Wednesday, said he's pleased with Copenhaver's decision, and Augusta Pride will be working to create a family event that educates the community about diversity.

"And while we're doing it, we're going to try to have a good time," he said.

Wade-Coronado said the city can expect a conservative event, with parade participants dressed in regular attire with none of the nudity or explicit displays seen in gay rights events in other parts of the country. However, all facets of the community -- straight, gay, lesbian, trans-gender and bisexual -- are welcome, so there will be drag queens and transvestites, but they'll be fully dressed, he said.

"We know where we live," he said. "This is a very conservative town, and we understand that."

The theme of the festival is "Community for All."

"We just want to be treated equally in Augusta," Wade-Coronado said. "I think we've been pushed way into the closet here."

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Brad Owens
5224
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Brad Owens 02/19/10 - 06:37 am
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Good to see the 1st Amendment

Good to see the 1st Amendment requires a 'legal opinion' so the mayor has 'political cover' on this choice. I stand by the Bill of Rights and the mayor should too. Why does someone need political cover if someting is so obvious? Deke, stand up for ALL of the citizens of our city and do it for the right reasons, because it is the right thing to do. You may not agree with the 'gay' lifestyle, but you have no right to deny folks their God given rights that are listed in teh Bill of Rights. I am disappointed in Deke, he should support EVERYONE'S right to assemble without a 'legal opinion'

RoadkiII
7029
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RoadkiII 02/19/10 - 06:55 am
0
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I agree with the decision

I agree with the decision even though I oppose the gay lifestyle. I am trying to figure out how the drag queens and transvestites are gonna participate if no one is wearing "costumes" Somebody may confuse them with normal people.

Dixieman
23108
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Dixieman 02/19/10 - 07:09 am
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"We know where we live," he

"We know where we live," he said. "This is a very conservative town, and we understand that."
--------------------------------------
Obviously untrue or they would not be scheduling this in-your-face performance.

johnston.cliff
2
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johnston.cliff 02/19/10 - 08:09 am
0
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How do you celebrate

How do you celebrate diversity if you're only diverse in your private life that's nobody's business but yours? I guess the answer is, you don't. You travel to the most conservative area you can find and you go out of your way to flaunt in the face of as many citizens as you can. See how much diversity you can show if you really know how? Well, I'm reminded of the brilliant young liberal who was going to disprove the silly rumor about the "angry bull charging a red flag". He climbed into a pen with a polled Holstien (no horns) and pranced around waving a flag like some kind of toreador. The bull not only knocked him down, but pushed him around in the mud with his bald head before the young liberal could finally escape. I hope the "diversity people" have better luck with their flaunting than the brilliant young liberal. Both are well within their legal rights.

cristinadh
6
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cristinadh 02/19/10 - 07:42 am
0
0
I have mixed feelings about

I have mixed feelings about this because Augusta is so behind in so many ways, that I just don't see this to be a peaceful event..

southern2
11293
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southern2 02/19/10 - 07:45 am
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Strange that the city of

Strange that the city of Augusta wants to celebrate diversity and uphold everyone's rights when it comes to supporting homosexuality. Wish that could have been the case a few years ago when one of our city's flags was removed from Riverwalk because some found it offensive.

Poodie
26
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Poodie 02/19/10 - 07:59 am
0
0
Brad Owens is right on. Thank

Brad Owens is right on. Thank goodness the Bill of Rights and the constitution make these decisions for us and that they are not left up to the preferences of the politicians.

southernguy08
578
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southernguy08 02/19/10 - 08:14 am
0
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Yawn. Just shows Augusta,
Unpublished

Yawn. Just shows Augusta, like the rest of the world is going the way of my old friend Helena Handbasket.

Axl Rose
0
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Axl Rose 02/19/10 - 08:19 am
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this sux! thanks alot DC

this sux! thanks alot DC

Riverman1
121056
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Riverman1 02/19/10 - 08:28 am
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I had wondered about the city

I had wondered about the city having to let all kinds of groups use the streets for parades, but this answered that for me:

"Quoting case law, he said it is undisputed that public streets " 'are quintessential public forums' for purposes of evaluating First Amendment rights to use such streets for parades ... Therefore, the City's right to limit expressive activity on these streets is 'sharply circumscribed.' "

1941
4
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1941 02/19/10 - 08:30 am
0
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With all the other activites

With all the other activites going on, why is some so upset, about the parade? I have never been to a gay parade, but I am going to attend my first one, and I am going to enjoy, the other parts of the program as well!! People, stop beign scared, of things you don't understand!!!

johnston.cliff
2
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johnston.cliff 02/19/10 - 09:03 am
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1941, why do you think gays

1941, why do you think gays are so afraid of being straight?

USA4Life
0
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USA4Life 02/19/10 - 09:24 am
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It is my belief that the

It is my belief that the Mayor made the correct decision based off the Constitutionality of the request whether I agree with the actions of those requesters. I do believe that the city should not require police officer with a moral objection to the activities to serve and protect this event however. I believe it was Henry Thoreau who once said man has a moral obligation to disobey immoral laws. In this case if the officer has a moral objection to such behavior he/she would be bound by moral law to usurp the authority of their superiors and not participate if indeed they were scheduled to work this event. I am sure if a devoted Jewish officer were asked to protec the protest & parades of pigs they would be given the day off based on religious views. Augusta, please be careful not to discriminate against our fine police force's moral views.

Whatsnext
0
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Whatsnext 02/19/10 - 09:27 am
0
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Claiming Christianity means

Claiming Christianity means upholding Christs' laws regardless of what man laws say. We are in the world, but not of the world. Those politicians who claim Christianity and so easily put their political career above Christ should be ashamed of themselves. Maybe they should re-evaluate their pledge to Christ again and choose this day whom they will serve. I'm not a preacher, but it bothers me when people claim one thing, yet do another. They are classified as lukewarm. I know there were/are Christians on that gov't that did not speak out for the sake of man's law. It may have cost them their job, but standing for Christ is a sacrifice in itself and you knew that prior to being in office. Your God/god should come first, whomever that be. At least the homosexuals, although wrong, are standing for what they believe in.

On another note, what irony in that this event takes place on the day African-Americans celebrate their freedom, "Juneteenth". Once again, their overshadowed by the bully of democracy and that God-forsaken, first amendment. ...lately, that amendment has been getting a lot of people into big trouble...many of them politicians.

peonynut
2
Points
peonynut 02/19/10 - 09:29 am
0
0
Ignorance is alive and well

Ignorance is alive and well in Richmond County.

johnston.cliff
2
Points
johnston.cliff 02/19/10 - 09:30 am
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And this parade proves it.

And this parade proves it.

jiclemens
0
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jiclemens 02/19/10 - 09:32 am
0
0
"having to let all kinds of

"having to let all kinds of groups use the streets"
Considering all the potholes and trains criss-crossing downtown, I can't think of a better use of the streets.

brimisjoshan
2
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brimisjoshan 02/19/10 - 09:41 am
0
0
Deke had the right to check

Deke had the right to check and see if there was any legal loopoll that would allow him to deny this parade on those grounds. If it was "Political posturing", then only he knows but don't bash the guy for reasons unknown. You know before they went with this parade nobody cared what they did behind closed doors other than to say we don't agree with it, it's not natural, it's against God's laws. Now you are going to stir division and bitterness. Sounds like a great thing, unh? Again Deke was faced with the dilema that every politician must face. That is a particular function/act may be constitutionally right but not morally right. Give Deke some grace, I am sure he was handling the situation the best he could.

Whatsnext
0
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Whatsnext 02/19/10 - 10:11 am
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@brimisjoshan -- if you don't

@brimisjoshan -- if you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything. I think it was MLKJr. who said, (paraphrasing) ...a man who won't die for what he believes in, is not fit to live. Policies and careers aside, right is right, wrong is wrong.

eachoneteachone
0
Points
eachoneteachone 02/19/10 - 10:12 am
0
0
We really do not have a ture

We really do not have a ture Augusta gay population. There is only a few gay people in Augusta so I don't think it is right for all of the out of town ones to come here to make it appear that there are a lot of gays.

butler123
1
Points
butler123 02/19/10 - 10:15 am
0
0
I just don't get why certain

I just don't get why certain groups always say that they want equal rights and they want to be treated like everyone else, just to turn around and show people how different and special they are. Groups shouldn't have rights, people should have rights.

eachoneteachone
0
Points
eachoneteachone 02/19/10 - 10:21 am
0
0
All of the chruch leaders

All of the chruch leaders should get together and call for prayer that things do not become violent. I don't go near anything controversal where some wacco might start shooting.In the interest of public saftey I don't think that a permit should have been granted. This city is far to volitile.

deekster
24
Points
deekster 02/19/10 - 10:21 am
0
0
Deke really had no other

Deke really had no other choice. It is the law. Simple? Not in Augusta? Deke could have "deferred the request to the appropriate department". Does he now "micro manage" every request presented to the "City"? Will he now "make a decision on every liquor license or building permit". Will he sign off on the X-Mart? He is much better at saying, "Meeting called to order" Do I hear a motion? Do I hear a second? Commissioners will vote by the usual sign. Unanimous vote. Passed. Meeting adjourned. It is all "political posturing". The same thing he accused black commissioner of doing. Deke wanted the "show". Deke needs the "show". He now has the "unbridled support of the gay community". On To Washington with another "feather in his cap". He supports "gay rights". And he did it with his "other hand folks".

brimisjoshan
2
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brimisjoshan 02/19/10 - 10:22 am
0
0
@what'snext I get your point

@what'snext I get your point and agree with you. I am just willing to cut him a little more slack because I know him and know his faith in Christ is real. I also believe he has done a lot of good for our community. Apparently, this wasn't a battle he wanted to fight. I would love to see him come out publically as the mayor of Las Vegas did about President Obama slamming Las Vegas. that mayor said Obama was not welcome in his town. Even though Deke had to sign off on this for legal reasons it would be nice if he stood up say, "Yes, you can have your parade but You're not welcome here and we would rather you wouldn't come." Pray for him to have such boldness!

eachoneteachone
0
Points
eachoneteachone 02/19/10 - 10:24 am
0
0
We should all have an anti

We should all have an anti violence parade on Laney Walker Blvd on the same day. Then very few would show up at the gay parade.

LynxRHot
0
Points
LynxRHot 02/19/10 - 10:27 am
0
0
What is the point of such a

What is the point of such a parade? In fact, what's the point of any parade? Flaunt your pride all you want....it doesn't make it right.

LynxRHot
0
Points
LynxRHot 02/19/10 - 10:28 am
0
0
Someone needs to remove the

Someone needs to remove the comment posted by deekster....that's just wrong.

brimisjoshan
2
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brimisjoshan 02/19/10 - 10:31 am
0
0
I agree LynxRHot. It is

I agree LynxRHot. It is wrong. It looks like he is quoting Deke when he is not. Deekster you should remove or revise your comment to make it clear that this is not a real quote from Deke Coppehaver.

deekster
24
Points
deekster 02/19/10 - 10:32 am
0
0
Wade-Coronado, who met with

Wade-Coronado, who met with the mayor Wednesday, said he's pleased with Copenhaver's decision, and Augusta Pride will be working to "create a family event that EDUCATES THE COMMUNITY ABOUT DIVERSITY. No different the the Christmas Parade or St.Patrick's Day or MLK Day. "We will obey the laws of man until they conflict with the Laws of God. Then we will obey God's Laws. MLK Jr.

Chillen
17
Points
Chillen 02/19/10 - 10:32 am
0
0
I'm kinda sick of the

I'm kinda sick of the articles about this parade. Who cares?! This has been under discussion for an entire week now. Find a new topic AC!

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