A federal court has ruled the city of Nashville violated the First Amendment rights of anti-LGBTQ street preachers at Nashville Pride in 2015.
An off-duty police officer who had been hired as security made John McGlone and Jeremy Peters leave a sidewalk in front of the event, where they were protesting with the use of bullhorns and amplification equipment.
They were told they would be arrested if they did not move, and set up across the street, where they continued their anti-LGBTQ preaching undeterred.
The protesters filed suit in 2016 claiming their rights to free speech had been violated, and on Wednesday the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in their favor, reversing an earlier decision by the district court. The lower court had found the action acceptable, arguing it was not done as a result of the content of the message but rather because the men were interfering with the purpose of the festival.
The appeals court found that argument to be nonsensical.
“Nashville’s explanation leaves no doubt that but for the anti-homosexuality message that McGlone and Peters were advancing as they stood on the sidewalk, they would not have been excluded,” the order reads. “How, then, can Nashville argue that its restriction of the preachers’ speech was not content based?”
Circuit Judge Karen Nelson Moore dissented, arguing their use of sound amplification was disruptive enough to the festival’s permitted activities that the city could ban them from the park where the event was being held without it constituting a restriction resultant from their message.