Oklahoma City banner ordinance ruled unconstitutional
An Oklahoma City, Okla., ordinance that kept a gay pride group's banners off city light poles has been struck down by a federal judge. The ordinance, adopted following public criticism of banners hung for the 2001 Gay and Lesbian Pride Parade, is an unconstitutional infringement of free speech rights, U.S. district judge Robin J. Cauthron ruled.
The order, handed down on Friday, is a victory for the Cimarron Alliance Foundation, which sued the city after its application to post banners to recognize gay and lesbian history month in June was rejected by city manager Jim Couch. "We always thought this was a First Amendment free speech case," said Mark Henrickson, who represents the foundation on behalf of the American Civil Liberties Union. "Judge Cauthron's decision vindicates that position."
Cauthron also ruled that Cimarron is entitled to damages from the city as well as court costs and attorneys' fees but withheld setting an exact amount.
Couch said city officials are reviewing the decision. "It's difficult to tell from the ruling whether we can have control on anything regarding banners or not," Couch said.
Henrickson said Cimarron plans to file new applications to hang the banners. "My clients hope to participate in the banner program like any other citizen," he said.