Dallas Pride Parade Dress Code Enforcement Draws Debate

Cheering_(9178105985)Controversy ensued after organizers of the 30th Annual Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade (“Dallas Pride”) announced a new effort to enforce state and city public nudity and lewdness laws at the parade. As reported, Michael Doughman, executive director of the Dallas Tavern Guild, organizers of the parade, said, “Just because it’s a day of celebration for our community doesn’t mean we are exempt from the law.” Doughman also reportedly said, referring to Dallas police, “[T]hey’ve looked the other way for years and years and years, but public lewdness and nudity in public [are] not going to continue to be tolerated.”

Dallas police officer and parade security co-commander Jeremy Liebbe reportedly described the effort as a “preventative measure” to address a “trend” in recent years of ignoring laws that had already been in place, but were apparently not rigorously enforced. As Liebbe explained, officers would review and warn marchers in the staging area prior to the parade, and those who had not complied before reaching the parade itself would be “removed from the parade and individuals may be charged with class-B misdemeanor indecent exposure.” If such indecent exposure were to occur in front of a child during the parade route, individuals may have committed felony indecency with a child, a third degree felony. See sections 21.08 and 21.11(a)(2)(A) of the Texas Penal Code. 

400px-Thai_Sunnyboy-Christopher_Street_Day-Berlin_2006While parade organizers and police have presented the new enforcement protocol as “preventative,” critics have charged that, in the words of activist Daniel Cates, “[the] ‘queer’ is effectively being erased from our pride celebration in favor of the most polished, heteronormative representation of our community possible.” According to this view, “family values” and corporate sponsorship have co-opted the meaning of the pride parade, covering its roots in sexual liberation with marriage equality, military service, and dress code enforcement. 

Controversy aside, Dallas Pride occurred with no reported dress code infringements and a large increase in attendance over the 2012 parade. Meanwhile, a man arrested at the 2011 San Diego pride parade has filed a complaint in the United States District Court for the Southern District of California against the City of San Diego, San Diego police officers, and San Diego Pride. He alleges, amongst other causes of action, violation of his 14th Amendment right to equal protection of the laws because of unequal and discriminatory enforcement. His issue? Walters was arrested for public nudity at the parade because of his outfit.

[Images via 1 and 2]