Central Alabama Pride, Inc. v. Larry Langford
Case on behalf of Central Alabama Pride, a gay group that was denied its free speech rights when the Birmingham mayor refused to provide city resources to support for gay pride based on his religious beliefs.
Central Alabama Pride (CAP) has held a gay pride parade in Birmingham every year since 1989. Its Pride banners have been displayed in accordance with city policy. It is the same policy that allows the display of banners for a variety of events and organizations, including religious events. In May, 2008, Birmingham Mayor Larry Langford announced that he would neither sign a proclamation nor provide a permit for gay pride based on his religious beliefs that do not “condone that lifestyle choice.” The mayor went so far as to forbid city workers from attaching Pride banners on city poles. CAP filed a complaint against the city in August, 2008.
Birmingham decided to allow a national antigay firm to represent the city, who filed a motion to dismiss the case. In December of 2008, Lambda Legal joined the case as co-counsel, after consultation with CAP and their lawyer, Birmingham civil rights attorney David Gespass. We are challenging Mayor Langford’s actions, claiming free speech and equal protection violations for denying CAP the same city resources that are available to other groups.
Gay Pride parades play an important role in bringing our communities together and celebrating our lives, affirming our equal dignity and shedding the shame of a less enlightened past. Allowing government officials to discriminate against organizers of these events by denying city resources — whether it is permits, police or equipment — not only contradicts the very purpose of Pride events but also opens up potential discrimination against all LGBT persons. That the city is being represented by a national religious law firm with an agenda of reversing the gains of the LGBT community reveals an effort to use religion and personal morality as an excuse to discriminate. Winning this case will send a message to governments and government officials that it may not discriminate against our communities without facing consequences.
Lambda Legal’s Impact
Lambda Legal hopes to stop any potential conservative policymaking strategies that seek to discriminate against Pride events by refusing to provide the city services and resources necessary to hold these events. Like this mayor, other government officials who seek political gain often do so on the backs of the LGBT community by using religion or a personal definition of morality to denounce LGBT events. A win here would help all LGBT individuals and communities ensure that government officials may not pick and choose who is allowed services based on religion or personal beliefs.
- February 2009 Lambda Legal joins the case in the U.S. District Court, Northern District of Alabama, at the request of Central Alabama Pride (CAP).
- September 2009 A settlement agreement is reached in the lawsuit. The city must pay legal costs and attorneys’ fees in excess of $40,000, and will establish non-discriminatory regulations for the approval of the hanging of banners on city property by city employees to announce upcoming public events.