Twin Cities Pride is filing a federal injunction against the Minneapolis Park Board for trying to force Pride into hosting anti-gay activist Brian Johnson of Hayward, Wis. Johnson and his family were arrested last year for trespassing after Pride organizers asked them to leave. Doris Johnson told KARE 11 last year that “We believe [homosexuality] is a sin.”
The Minneapolis Park Board, however, said that Twin Cities Pride must allow the anti-gay family to attend the festival and hand out their bibles, despite refusing to sign a non-discrimination statement.
“The Park Board’s decision is akin to allowing the Klu Klux Klan to openly convey their racist and anti-immigration views at the Cinco de Mayo festival,” Eileen Scallen, a professor at William Mitchell who is representing the Pride Festival.
Scallen points to a case in 1995 where St. Patrick’s Day Parade organizers barred a LGBT group from marching. The Supreme Court said the organizers could exclude gays from the parade because they bought a permit.
“Mr. Johnson is free to hurl invectives against the GLBT community and their families and distribute Bibles on the public sidewalk opposite Loring Park,” said Amy Slusser of the Minneapolis law firm, Robins, Kaplan, Miller and Ciresi in a statement. “That is his First Amendment right. He just can’t do so in the park while it is being leased for the Pride Festival.”
Pride organizers say they host more a dozen “religious groups representing Lutherans, Baptists, Methodists, Unitarians and Catholics.”
“This year, we’re expecting more than 200,000 members of the GLBT community and their straight brothers and sisters to attend one of the most welcoming, safe and fun festivals in the state,” Scallen said. “We won’t let the Park Board or Mr. Johnson hurt our annual celebration or our guests.”