Vermont town selectively bans fursuiters: Prejudice complaint and update.
by Patch O'Furr
The Vermont Furs have an active online presence including Facebook and Twitter. I see many positive events such as BBQ’s, bowling, camping, and a walk to benefit Cystic Fibrosis patients. They look like a fantastic group- the kind that makes me love everything about furries. But their activities are being harmed by treatment they feel is unfair.
Fursuiters kicked out of Mardi Gras event in Burlington, Vermont – but not others dressed in masks.
Why were they being singled out, the furries wanted to know, when the streets were teeming with other strangely dressed revelers?
“It’s just different,” was the response, Owens said.
A thoughtful and well-written article in the independent alt-weekly Seven Days recently covered the February 28 incident, and following talks with the city. The given reason was a lack of performer permits – (to be clear, none of them were busking or asking for money) – and child safety concerns.
For evidence, there was mention of a bad incident with a costumed “Elmo” Sesame Street character in New York’s Times Square. I googled the incident as suggested, but it didn’t mention children- only a panhandling offense. At the Seven Days article, I commented that it was quite a stretch to pick one sensationalized headline from hundreds of miles away, for a “think of the children” argument about people who weren’t hurting anybody.
A law regulating wearing masks to conceal identity has also been mentioned. The town had it on the books since the 1960’s. After being notified, the fursuiters gave cooperative spirit to successfully apply for a group entertainers permit. It was pending renewal, but the officials weren’t letting it happen.
The nearby town of Essex has established a welcoming relationship with the Vermont Furs. Fursuiters were invited to events including a public christmas tree lighting. In some parts of the U.S., city governments have honored furries for positive economic and cultural impact – such as the mayor of Pittsburgh’s declaration of “Anthrocon Day.”
A formal complaint, and talk of challenging the city mask ordinance.
The original report was posted by Vermont Furs on FurAffinity:
It is with great regret that we inform you that the Vermont Furs group is officially filing a formal complaint of discrimination against the Church Street Marketplace… We do understand that our entertainers permit is expired, however Mardi Gras is a public event and we were not there to be performers. Mardi Gras and Halloween are the only events in which the mask law is given an exception…. Singling us out continues the stigma that we fight so hard to control and it has to end.
Update – hope for a good resolution.
A town officials letter followed a meeting with the furries – offering a possible ray of hope:
We love your idea of a special ID our office would design for Vermont Furs to wear when on Church Street, and we’re proposing that to the Marketplace Commission at their Wednesday, April 15 meeting.
The members are being patient:
Our plan right now is to see what happens with this upcoming meeting. If we are denied a permit, we will let the members of vermont furs vote as to the course of action: which would be trying to get the city ordinance changed vs dropping all suiting in Burlington. We will of course be using other locations to try suiting in.
I’ll ask them to send further developments to share here.