CINCINNATI (CN) – The Sixth Circuit ruled that three men have standing to sue the city of Columbus over getting permits to burn flags, court documents and other items in “ceremonial burnings.” Charles Spingola and Thomas Meyer were arrested and in 2001 for burning a rainbow-colored flag at the Gay Pride parade and convicted of open burning without a permit.
Before the 2004 parade, Spingola applied for and received a permit to burn another rainbow flag, but he claims he was intimidated by city police officers. Thomas Daubenmire, founder of a Christian organization called Pass the Salt Ministries, joined as a plaintiff after city officials allegedly tried to stop him from burning the Koran, a rainbow flag and U.S. Supreme Court decisions that he claimed are “viewed by Christians as undermining biblical morality.”
Plaintiffs argued that the city selectively enforced its open burning ban by allowing at least one man to burn voter registration forms without a permit, but stopping the plaintiffs’ ceremonial burnings “because city officials are sympathetic to the homosexual rights movement and hostile to (plaintiffs), whose message greatly irritates and offends the homosexual community.”
The circuit reversed the lower court’s ruling that the plaintiffs lack standing to sue. But it dismissed their First and Fourth Amendment claims as an attempt to re-litigate identical state claims in a federal forum. The court also rejected the plaintiffs’ selective enforcement claim as frivolous. See ruling in Daubenmire v. Columbus