Late last month, a federal district court in Tennessee granted summary judgment to the Nashville metropolitan government in a case involving the rights of protesters at the 2015 Nashville Pride Festival, which is a celebration of LGBTQ rights and culture.
Nashville Pride Festival is held in the City’s Public Square Park. In order to hold the festival in the park, Nashville required the organization Nashville Pride to obtain a permit. The event was ticketed, such that only those with tickets could enter into the park. The plaintiffs in the case, John McGlone and Jeremy Peters, believe that homosexuality is a sin. They attended the festival in protest, but stayed outside the ticketed area. A festival employee asked them to leave the area outside of the gate, as it was subject to Nashville Pride’s permit. Eventually, the protesters were removed to a location on the other side of the street from the park. This location was unsatisfactory to the plaintiffs, because they believed that their message would reach less people.
Due to their dissatisfaction, the plaintiffs filed suit against the city and county government on First Amendment grounds. On cross-motions for summary judgment, the court granted the city’s motion and denied the plaintiffs’. The court held that, although the public park was a traditional public forum, the city could constitutionally impose content neutral time, place, and manner restrictions on speech there. Relying on Supreme Court precedent, the district court found that the permit requirement for festivals such as Nashville Pride Festival allowed the city to arrange its traditional public forum in an orderly manner, and that the protesters were not entitled to use a permitted area to engage in protest activities. The court concluded its analysis by reminding the plaintiffs that, although they were located across the street from the festival, their use of bullhorns for four or five hours at a time ensured that their message was heard by those passing by.
McGlone v. Metropolitan Government of Nashville, ___ F.Supp. 3d ___, 2017 WL 4310097 (M.D. Tenn. Sept. 28, 2017).