Wednesday, June 12, 2013

ACLU Steps In To Help Marriage Equality Rally in Fresno

Marriage Equality USA is battling with the city of Fresno over their Day of Decision event. Day of Decision events are those that are held across the country when landmark rulings by the courts are handed down. 

The City won’t approve the use of the grounds in front of the City Hall because a specific date can’t be given. That’s because the event can’t be pinned down, since it depends on when the Supreme Court makes the ruling. The ACLU has stepped in, sending a letter to the City. A response is expected this week.

In the past, the City has granted use of the grounds under the same circumstances. The Supreme Court rulings on both Prop 8 and DOMA will happen some time this month.

Courtesy the ACLU
By Michael T. Risher

It’s LGBT Pride Month across the country, and all eyes are on the U.S. Supreme Court as we wait for decisions in two cases involving marriage for same-sex couples. So why is the City of Fresno blocking local marriage equality supporters from holding a rally? The ACLU stepped in today to make sure the city isn’t silencing free speech.

Marriage Equality USA wants to hold a rally in support of the freedom to marry on the evening that the hotly-anticipated Supreme Court rulings are issued. They followed city rules and asked for permission to rally in the square outside City Hall.

Imagine their surprise when the City denied their request. The City claims it can’t issue them a permit because the activists are unable to predict the precise date that the Supreme Court opinion will be issued.

Today the ACLU sent a letter to the City which describes how this violates the First Amendment and asks the City to grant the permit.

Federal courts have made it clear that, under the First Amendment, people have the right to respond to unexpected or unpredictable events by holding demonstrations in public areas without providing such notice. Cities can of course require permits for large events on public open spaces, but the First Amendment demands that they must provide some way for free speech in response to fast-breaking events.

Fresno should respect the Constitution and grant Marriage Equality USA’s request for a permit to rally outside City Hall at 6pm the day that the Supreme Court issues its ruling.

Michael T. Risher is a Staff Attorney at the ACLU of Northern California. Follow @MichaelTRisher on Twitter.

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