In a case that we reported on over a year ago, last fall, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a Tennessee judge’s entry of summary judgment in favor of the Nashville metropolitan government, finding instead that the relocation of protesters at Nashville’s Pride Festival violated the protesters’ First Amendment rights.
The facts of the case can be found in our prior post. In short, this case arose from Nashville’s exclusion of anti-homosexuality preachers from the city’s annual Pride Festival, which celebrates the LGBT community of Nashville.
On appeal, the Sixth Circuit agreed with the district court that the area in question was a traditional public forum. However, the appeals court found the relocation of the protesters to be content based. Although Nashville contended that the relocation of the protesters was content neutral, because the speech in question interfered with the Pride Festival, its location obstructed ingress and egress to the Festival, and the protesters presented a danger to public safety due to the crowds that they drew. The appellate court found that the first of these reasons was itself content based, since the protesters’ message was itself the reason that it interfered with the Festival. In applying strict scrutiny, the Sixth Circuit found that the city had failed to demonstrate any compelling interest justifying its exclusion of the protesters from the Festival.