Anoka Halloween Parade’s Excuse to Exclude Gay Youth Group Doesn’t Add Up


On Tuesday I reported that Justin's Gift, an LGBTQ youth group in Anoka, Minnesota named for deceased bullying victim Justin Aaberg, had its application to join the town's massive Halloween parade turned down. Organizers said there wasn't room.

AabergMinnesota Public Radio finds a lot of holes in that excuse:

Justin's Gift, a nonprofit group created to support gay youth after several suicides in the Anoka-Hennepin School District, received a letter dated Sept. 25 denying their request to walk in the Oct. 27 parade. The letter is signed by the parade chair, who included only her first name, Liz.

"At this time we are unable to accept your application for the parade," the letter said. "We have reached our maximum for walking units."

However, the application for the parade license, obtained by MPR News, was not submitted until today — 15 days after Justin's Gift was told the parade was full.

The application, submitted to the city of Anoka by Elizabeth McFarland, estimates the parade will include approximately 31,000 people, 250 parade units, 200 vehicles, 50 dogs and 12 horses. McFarland did not return a call seeking comment.

The youth group says it has 30 kids who want to march.

As I noted on Tuesday:

Anoka, Minnesota has a poor reputation for handling the needs of LGBT youth. As you may recall, the Anoka-Hennepin School District last March settled a federal suit filed in 2011 by civil rights groups and six student plaintiffs over a sexual neutrality policy blamed for bullying linked to the suicides of seven students over a two year period.

Anoka bills itself as the 'Halloween Capital of the World'.

The Chamber of Commerce's phone number can be found here. Other contact info here.


  1. jason says

    If I were the rejected kids, I’d march anyway. I’d wear rainbows, too. The whole thing stinks of homophobia due to women. I say that because it was reported earlier this week that a woman had rejected their application to march.

  2. says

    I doubt the homophobia in Anoka is limited to women — it’s just that a woman happens to be the head of the parade organization.

  3. AJ says

    I have lived in the twin cities all my life. ANd I avoid Anoka like the plague. Even before their BS with the school district. It’s loaded with big growling ridiculous trucks, smirking teens crusing and more rednecks and racist white trash per capita than anywhere else in the Twin Cities. This does NOT surprise me one bit.

  4. ratbastard says

    Towleroad posts are FULL of MEGA-TROLLS. Worse than any other site I read or have checked out. Lil’ Canadian, ‘Jason’, ‘Rick’, etc.,

    Posting something outrageous that is the opposite of your true beliefs or feelings is of course a time honored technique to make people you disagree [be they reasonable or unreasonable opposites] look bad. And TR has more than it’s share.

  5. gregory brown says

    We all know what a distraction and spectacle of the worst kind 30 queer kids and their friends can be. Noise, laughter, smile, waves, indications of normal living real people. Can’t have something like that in a decent town parade. Nope. No way!

  6. Len says

    I agree with Jason: have Justin’s Gift kids show up and march anyway and alert the news media beforehand so that any attempt to remove them can be caught by cameras…

  7. JD says

    Here’s the letter I sent to the board of directors, in case you would like to use it to write your own letter:

    Anoka Halloween Board of Directors:

    I am writing to urge you to allow the youth program Justin’s Gift to participate in the annual Halloween Parade in your community. For decades LGBT youth in the United States have been shunned, pushed into the corners of society and left alone to try and manage their problems on their own. Bullying has become endemic in recent years and hate crimes against LGBT people are on the rise. Regardless of how you may feel about LGBT rights issues I am sure you agree that young people being the victims of violence (whether self-inflicted or inflicted by others) is not something that should be condoned through inaction. Justin’s Gift is a remarkable organization that seeks to help young people be more tolerant, respectful and safe – these are all admirable goals. I am sure that you will agree that communities are built upon respect, tolerance and the constant dialogue between neighbors.

    The denial of Justin’s Gift application to join the parade listed space as a reason for exclusion. I am sure that honorable and hard-working people like you realize that this reason appears to be a paper-thin excuse that is really based in a misunderstanding of the value of this important group. I am sure that reasonable people like yourselves also realize that continued controversy of denying Justin’s Gift from marching will tarnish your good reputation on a national scale and bring unnecessary negative publicity to your fine community. Again, I urge you to reconsider your denial of Justin’s Gift’s application to join your time-honored Halloween celebration.


  8. CC says

    I’m sorry – but Salem, MA is THE Halloween capital of the world…AND a very welcoming place for all.

  9. Francis says

    I can’t get over the fact how blatantly they are discriminating. Like, they are proud of being known as a horrendously hateful town. It’s very, very sad.

  10. Icebloo says

    The gays need to kit themselves out in rainbow flags and “Legalize gay” T-shirts and force their way into the parade.
    It’s a free country – GET OUR THERE AND DEMAND TO BE INCLUDED !

    The march organizers will be too embarrassed in public to try to stop you marching.

    I wish I lived there – I would help you organize it and march with you.

  11. BETTY says

    @HUNTER: in JASON/RICK’s eyes it’s all about the women. They are just as discrimanatory to women as they claim women are to gays. Go figure.

  12. DAVE says

    You are excluding gay people from a Halloween celebration? It’s the freakin’ Don’t gayest holiday ever! Just kidding. But seriously, how many churches and crosses are in the logo for their event (pictured above)? Geeze Louise that says a lot!

  13. DAVE says

    Let’s see if any other groups applied and were given permission to march during the time these kids were turned down and the application for the parade permit was filed??

  14. Marco Luxe says

    New statements by the parade committee indicate that over 20 groups were denied permission to participate, but no names were given. Anyone know of rejected groups — with date appropriate rejection letters?

  15. A Coach says

    I’ve been told for the past 4 years we can’t perfor in the parade because it’s already too full of walking groups. Don’t believe everything you read…maybe next year!