An Anoka Halloween Parade committee has rejected the request of LGBT group, Justin's Gift, but has failed to provide sound reasoning behind the decision, according to the Star Tribune.
In a letter dated September 27th, a parade chair identified only as Liz stated, "At this time we are unable to accept your application for the parade. We have reached our maximum for walking units." However, according to MPR News, the parade license was submitted Wednesday, 15 days after Justin's Gift was told the roster was full. MPR obtained the license, which estimates approximately 31,000 people, 250 parade units, 200 vehicles, 50 dogs and 12 horses. When MPR attempted to contact parade officials for comment, there was no response.
According to MPR, Anoka Police Chief Philip Johanson said he's not aware of an official limit on the number of participants in the parade, only that the parade route needs to be approved in advance to allow enough time for officials to redirect traffic.
According to a September 2011 article in the New York Times, the Anoka area, particularly its LGBT community, has seen its share of conflict, with 8 teen suicides in just 2 years. The New York Times claims that according to friends and relatives, at least 4 of the teens were gay or bisexual and were victims of harassment at school. The group's namesake, Justin Aaberg, died after his 9th grade year after being "maliciously" outed in 8th grade.
Several other students served as plaintiffs in a lawsuit accusing the school district of not protecting its LGBTQ students, citing numerous counts of harassment while teachers looked the other way, according to the New York Times.
According to the Star Tribune, the students had originally been disappointed but accepting of the decision, but when the officials refused to provide any explanations, families and community members began to question whether their LGBT message might be a factor. To the group, being able to participate would mean more than just having fun on Halloween.
"Letting Justin's Gift into the parade would be like telling society, 'It's getting better. We're doing OK. We're trying to make everything work,'" Meagan Davitt, 13, told the Star Tribune. "Sexuality shouldn't matter to anybody except for the person whose sexuality it is."