Opinions & Commentaries

Appellants are five "Jehovah's Witnesses" who, with sixty-three others of the same persuasion, were convicted in the municipal court of Manchester, New Hampshire, for violation of a state statute prohibiting a "parade or *571 procession" upon a public street without a special license.

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The Illinois Supreme Court denied a stay of the trial court's injunction prohibiting petitioners from marching, walking, or parading in the uniform of the National Socialist Party of America or otherwise displaying the swastika, and from distributing pamphlets or displaying materials inciting or promoting hatred against Jews or persons of any faith, ancestry, or race, and also denied leave for an expedited appeal. Held: 1. The Illinois Supreme Court's order is a final judgment for purposes of this Court's jurisdiction, since it finally determined the merits of petitioners' claim that the injunction will deprive them of First Amendment rights during the period of appellate review. 2. The State must allow a stay where procedural safeguards, including immediate appellate review, are not provided, and the Illinois Supreme Court's order denied this right. Certiorari granted; reversed and remanded.

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After several violent confrontations between civil rights marchers and local residents, the Forsyth (Georgia) County Board of Commissioners enacted an ordinance that permitted the county administrator to adjust the fee charged for a parade permit, up to a maximum of $1,000, to reflect the estimated cost of maintaining public order during the parade. In January 1989, The Nationalist Movement applied for a permit to demonstrate in opposition to the Martin Luther King, Jr., holiday. The county charged a $100 fee that did include any calculation for expenses incurred by law enforcement authorities. The Movement challenged the fee in federal court. The federal district court rejected the challenge. The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the arbitrary fee violated the First Amendment. A government may regulate competing uses of public forums, such as streets and sidewalks, by imposing permit requirements on those who wish to hold rallies, parades, and marches. Cox v. New Hampshire, 312 U.S. 569 (1941). The regulatory scheme, however, must not delegate overly broad licensing discretion to a government official, must be content-neutral, must be narrowly tailored to serve a significant governmental interest, and must leave open ample alternative channels for communication. United States v. Grace, 461 U.S. 171 (1983); Freedman v. Maryland, 380 U.S. 51 (1965).

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A veterans' organization has for almost 50 years organized the Boston St. Patrick's Day parade. A group of gay, lesbian, and bisexual descendants of Irish immigrants requested permission to march in the parade. After the parade organizers denied this request, the group obtained a state court order allowing it to march. The state court relied on a Massachusetts statute that prohibits operators of public places from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation. First Amendment protections attach to parades and persons in them. Gregory v. Chicago, 394 U.S. 111 (1969). One of these protections is that a speaker has the freedom to decide what not to say. Pacific Gas & Elec. C. v. Utilities Comm. of Cal, 475 U.S. 1 (1986).

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