(Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) A federal judge has ruled that the city of Philadelphia did not violate the rights of an anti-gay group when it arrested them during a protest at the city's gay pride celebration in 2004.
The 11 demonstrators from Repent America had sued the city and Philly Pride Presents, the organizer of OutFest, alleging their civil rights had been violated.
U.S. District Judge Lawrence Stengel disagreed, granting summary judgment for the city and Philly Pride.
When members of Repent America showed up at the 2004 event police allowed them to demonstrate at the edge of a cordoned off area where OutFest was being held.But when the demonstrators began using a bullhorn yelling Biblical passages to drown out the events on stage pride organizers complained to police.
The protestors then allegedly attempted to enter the cordoned off area, continuing to use the bullhorn to condemn homosexuality.
At that point they got into an argument with a group of Pink Angels, who screamed back.
It was at that point police intervened and arrested the demonstrators. They were held 21 hours but charges were later dropped and Repent America and its leader Michael Marcavage filed the civil rights lawsuit.
In his ruling Stengel said that the right to speak and assemble is not without limits.
“There is no constitutional right to drown out the speech of another person,” he said in his written ruling.
Stengel noted that the city did not bar Repent America from demonstrating, but that after the protestors left the designated area and entered the cordoned off place where OutFest was being held the city had the right to intervene.
He has been arrested, detained or cited by police around the country since founding Repent America in 2002, including at a demonstration against same-sex marriages in San Francisco.
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