Friday, February 20, 2009

Lambda Legal Joins First Amendment Case Against Birmingham Mayor

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama - At the U.S. District Court, Northern District of Alabama late yesterday (Feb. 19), Lambda Legal joined a lawsuit on behalf of Central Alabama Pride (CAP) against Mayor Larry Langford who interfered with their right to free speech last summer when he directed city workers to treat the group differently than other groups are treated.

“Mayor Larry Langford denied government benefits to Central Alabama Pride solely on the basis of his personal beliefs,” said Beth Littrell, Staff Attorney in Lambda Legal’s Southern Regional Office based in Atlanta. “A government official cannot pick and choose which groups get government benefits or free speech rights.”

Lambda Legal and local attorney David Gespass represent CAP in their lawsuit against Mayor Langford for refusing to allow city workers to attach Pride banners on city poles. CAP has held a gay pride parade through the streets of Birmingham every year since 1987, and had its Pride banners displayed in accordance with city policy that attached banners for a variety of organizations when they have events taking place in the city. However, in May of 2008, the mayor announced that he would neither sign a proclamation nor provide a permit for gay pride based on his religious beliefs that do not “condone that lifestyle choice.” As a result of the mayor’s refusal to allow city workers to attach CAP banners using city equipment, unlike the city has in years past with every other group, CAP was forced to subject themselves to extraordinary risks and dangers in order display their message.

CAP filed a complaint against the City in August of 2008 in the Northern District of Alabama. Birmingham elected to allow Liberty Council, a national antigay, conservative firm to represent them in responding to the lawsuit with a motion to dismiss the case. After consulting with Lambda Legal, CAP filed an amended complaint in December 2008, and Lambda Legal formerly entered the case as co-counsel by filing a responsive brief arguing that the motion to dismiss has no legal basis late yesterday.

Lambda Legal challenges the Mayor’s actions claiming free speech and equal protection violations for denying CAP city resources that are available to other groups.

The case is Central Alabama Pride, Inc. v. Larry Langford

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