When Brookfield resident Mark McCann learned about a protest planned this week in Elk Grove Village over their government’s failure to act to repeal an outdated law prohibiting people from wearing clothes of the opposite sex in public, he thought he’d have a look at what was on the books in Brookfield.
“I just went into the [online] code, typed in ‘indecent’ and it was the first thing that popped up,” McCann said.
Turns out under Article V of the Brookfield Municipal Code, which defines “Offenses Against Public Decency and Morals,” there’s a provision for “Indecent exposure, dress or acts” which reads, “If any person shall appear in a public place in a state of nudity, or in a dress not belonging to his sex … he shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.”
The language of the Brookfield code mirrored almost exactly what was in the Elk Grove Village Code.
McCann followed up that discovery by sending an email to all of the members of the Brookfield Village Board under the heading “Being trans is illegal in Brookfield?!?!” In the email, McCann asked for prompt action from elected officials.
“I know this law is outdated and not enforced, but this needs to be changed immediately,” McCann said. “It is Pride month, let’s hope this gets quick attention from village leadership.”
The protest called for June 30 in Elk Grove Village resulted from the reported inaction of that local government after they were tipped off about the archaic law more than a year ago.
The Windy City Times quoted the person who had brought the matter to that village’s attention, saying she was assured by the Elk Grove Village mayor the law would be changed.
When elected officials dragged their heels, the protest was called to force some action. It reportedly had the intended effect, and the village board was expected to act by the date of the June 30 protest, according to the Windy City Times.
McCann won’t have to wait so long to see the Brookfield law off the books.
“The village has been very responsive,” said McCann, who said Village President Michael Garvey and at least two trustees contacted him personally to say the village board would act.
Village Manager Timothy Wiberg said the item is scheduled to appear on the village board’s July 12 meeting agenda and that he will recommend that the village board repeal that section of the code.
The section of the code where the prohibition against wearing “dress not belonging to his sex” was ratified in 1940 and amended a couple of times thereafter, in 1964 and 1966. It’s unlikely that village leaders of the time would have any awareness of transgender individuals, though they likely would have had knowledge of transvestites.
In any case, it wasn’t a law present-day village officials knew remained on the books, and it certainly wasn’t enforced.
“It’s one of those things no one really knew was there,” Wiberg said. “But, when it comes to your attention, you need to take the appropriate action and rectify the wrong.”
Brookfield Police Chief Edward Petrak said he assigned an officer presently on light duty to research the village code for other possibly archaic laws.
“It’s embarrassing to have something like that in there,” Petrak said. “We want to do everything we can to get this corrected.”
Neither Riverside nor North Riverside have such provisions in their municipal codes, though Riverside’s does make it illegal to for people to be “wandering about the streets by day or night without any lawful means of support or without being able to give a satisfactory account of themselves.”
In North Riverside, meanwhile, it’s against the law “for any person to utter or use any lewd or profane language in any public place within the village.”
So, watch your mouth.