BIRMINGHAM, ALA. (CN) – Birmingham Mayor Larry Langford refused to grant a permit for a nonprofit group’s annual gay pride parade, saying he did not condone the group’s “lifestyle choice,” which offend his religious beliefs. So Central Alabama Pride group sued Langford for discrimination in Federal Court.
“Applications for parade permits in Birmingham are routinely handled through the Birmingham Police Department and the Pride parade had, since its inception, been so handled,” states Central Alabama Pride, which has hosted its annual parade since 1989. “However, in 2008, defendant announced that he would not grant a permit for the parade. He stated that he did not condone the ‘lifestyle choice’ represented by the parade and further stated that anyone familiar with his religious views would not be surprised by his decision.”
After a brouhaha in the local press, mediated in part by state Rep. Patricia Todd – Alabama’s first openly gay state legislator – “defendant agreed not to interfere with the parade, so long as he did not have to sign the permit – which he never would have had to do in the ordinary course of events. He refused, however, to issue the proclamation that had always been issued in previous years and refused to allow city workers to hang banners.”
Plaintiffs say the city hangs banners along parade routes for a host of organizations, including football games, religious meetings, and events sponsored by Pepsi and McDonald’s.
Central Alabama Pride says the city has “no set of objective criteria for deciding whether banners are to be hung on streets and on city property, whether by city workers or by private individuals or organizations. No representation has ever been made to plaintiff’s representatives that the hanging of its banners by city workers would be a violation of any established city policy. On the contrary, the only explanation that has been provided is that defendant disapproves, on religious and moral grounds, of the ‘lifestyle choice’ the Pride banners represent. …
“Defendant’s actions constitute viewpoint discrimination in violation of plaintiff’s rights under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, as made applicable to the states by the Fourteenth Amendment.”
Plaintiffs seek declaratory judgment, an injunction and costs. They are represented by David Gespass with Gespass & Johnson.
Langford was elected in October 2007 and took office in November. Central Alabama Pride was founded in 1979 and has hosted its annual parade since 1989, which marked the 20th anniversary of the “Stonewall Uprising,” when habitués of a gay bar in New York City began resisting police abuse.