ACLU to Fresno: Don't Block Marriage Equality Rallies

Jun 24, 2013
Michael T. Risher

Page Media

ACLU of Northern CA

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.

Update (June 24, 2013):

With great help from the ACLU-NC's Greater Fresno Chapter, the City of Fresno has agreed to grant a permit to Marriage Equality USA for a rally on the evening the Supreme Court issues its highly anticipated rulings on the Defense of Marriage Act and Prop. 8. So if you're in Fresno the night the Supreme Court makes its decisions public, you are now officially free to join with other supporters in the square in front of Fresno City Hall.

Update (June 14, 2018):

ACLU of Northern California Letter to Fresno City Council Re: Proposed Parades and Other Special Events Ordinance

Michael T. Risher is a former Senior Staff Attorney with the ACLU Foundation of Northern California.