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Gay Festival Foes Lack Legal Basis, Council Told

Times Staff Writer

New arguments raised by opponents of a gay pride festival in Santa Ana offer no legal basis for revoking the festival’s permit, the city attorney said Tuesday.

City Atty. Edward J. Cooper said he was not sure why he had been asked Monday to again review the issue. He said he has already stated that the event would not present any “clear and present danger.”

“It’s a factual issue, not a legal issue,” Cooper said. “There’s no other legal argument that I’m aware of.”

At a City Council meeting Monday, Mayor Daniel H. Young told Cooper to write a memo to the City Council addressing security concerns about the festival.

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On their permit application, organizers said they expected 5,500 people to attend the festival, scheduled for Sept. 9 and 10 in Centennial Park. Some fundamentalist groups and residents contend that many more, perhaps hundreds of thousands, will attend. John J. Duran, an attorney for the festival’s organizers, called those estimates “crazy and speculative.”

No Basis for Revoking Permit

Cooper said that even if he finds in his report that the organizers underestimated the number attending, that would not be a basis for revoking the permit. Rather, it would mean that more security and money would be required for the event, he said.

Further, Cooper said, unless someone presents facts showing that the group has a history of violence, the council has no reason to revoke the permit.

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“I don’t think those facts are there,” he said.

Janet Avery, the president of Orange County Cultural Pride, the sponsor of the event, said the group will pay the city $15,000 for services and license fees. The group can pay more if necessary, she said.

Debate over the festival, which organizers say is the first of its kind in Orange County, erupted into angry shouts and occasional physical confrontations Monday outside the City Council chambers, where each side presented two speakers.

Councilman John Acosta, who wants the city to cancel or relocate the event, said Monday’s protest is a sign that the situation will mushroom into violence.

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Acosta said the event could invite, among other groups, right-wing skinheads who would clash with gay activists.

‘Right of Free Speech’

“I think (Cooper) cannot comprehend the graveness of this situation,” Acosta said.

Cooper, in a memo to the council in May, ruled that they could not retroactively revoke the permit. He further said that “the group in the present case has a constitutional right of free speech and assembly.”

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City Manager David N. Ream said authority for granting permits has been delegated to the director of the Department of Recreation and Community Services. Opponents have called for a public hearing on the festival, where the issue might be referred back to the department.


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