Veterans Group Has Marched in Auburn Parade Since 2006, says City Is Violating Rights by Excluding It This Year.
A veterans group which has marched in Auburn’s Veterans Day Parade for the past six years is suing to march in this year’s parade, the ACLU of Washington announced today. The suit says that Auburn officials are violating the group’s free speech rights by unfairly denying its application to march in the civic celebration scheduled for November 10. The ACLU of Washington is representing the veterans group in the lawsuit filed today in U.S. District Court in Seattle.
Veterans For Peace (VFP) is a national organization that honors our country’s veterans and active military personnel, and seeks to promote peace and decrease U.S. military involvement in foreign conflicts. In its work, VFP honors soldiers by using and guarding constitutional freedoms that military personnel swore to defend in their oaths of enlistment and office.
The Greater Seattle Chapter of Veterans For Peace has participated in the Auburn Veterans Day Parade since 2006. Yet the city denied the veterans group’s application to march in the 2012 parade, claiming that the city chose only those applicants which most closely meet the purpose and goals of the parade. At the same time, the city has approved applications from a motorcycle club, a Corvette club, the Optimists and Kiwanis International, the Sons of Italy, and a Daffodil Festival float.
“These are a group of patriotic people who care about their fellow veterans and want to express themselves by marching in the Veterans Day Parade. The city has given no good reason why other groups are being allowed to march while their application was rejected,” said David Whedbee, attorney and ACLU-WA board member.
The lawsuit says that the City of Auburn’s rules governing which groups are allowed to march in the government-sponsored parade are unconstitutional. The rules impermissibly allow decisions about applications to be made on the subjective beliefs of administrators as to who meets the goals and purposes of the parade.
Further, the suit asserts that the City of Auburn is discriminating against Veterans For Peace because of the group’s viewpoint. In sponsoring the parade, the city is creating a space for private groups to speak on the topic of veterans on the occasion of Veterans Day. VFP is clearly a veterans group, and its mission is not inconsistent with the purpose and goals of the parade. The city has given no justification why VFP’s application has been denied while those of many other groups with diverse messages have been accepted.
The lawsuit seeks a court order to have VFP march in this year’s Veterans Parade in Auburn.
Handling the case for the ACLU-WA are cooperating attorney David Whedbee of MacDonald, Hoague, and Bayless, and staff attorneys Sarah Dunne and La Rond Baker.