Judge Denies TRO in Minneapolis Pride Festival Case, But…

Minnnesota District Judge John Tunheim has denied a temporary restraining order sought by Twin Cities Pride (TCP) to prevent an anti-gay preacher from distributing literature and displaying signs inside the park where TCP has a permit for the annual gay pride festival.  (The desision is here.  I wrote about some of the basic issues here.). Twin Cities Pride (TCP) pays the Minnesota Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) more than $36,000 annually to use the park for the festival.  TCP also pays thousands of dollars for security and insurance. But this year, for the first time, the MPRB decided that unauthorized literature distribution and signage must be allowed in the permit area.  Judge Tunheim held that TCP’s proposed restrictions on the preacher’s activities were too broad as a limitation on speech in a traditional public forum. 

In a footnote in his opinion, however, he did suggest that “free speech zones” within the permit area could be set up in which anti-gay (and other) literature could be distributed and signage could be displayed: 

 In theory, Twin Cities Pride could designate “free speech zones” on the Pride Festival grounds in which anyone who wishes to distribute literature or display signage may do so. MPRB police could enforce that area as a content-neutral restriction – assuming that those free speech zones provide attendees with ample alternative channels of expression, and assuming that oral communication would be permitted throughout the public forum. Attendees would thus have the opportunity to “reach the minds of willing listeners,” and Twin Cities Pride would have the opportunity to disclaim the content of such expression.
 
(internal citations omitted) Such areas, he suggested, would help limit litter (which TCP is required to pay to clean up), ease crowd control, and assure traffic flow in the congested festival, etc.  The footnote in his opinion also says that TCP could set up signs disclaiming the anti-gay protesters’ message. Such disclaimers would be more effective than if Johnson and others were free to roam the permit area.  

The problem, as suggested by Judge Tunheim, is the “in theory” part.  Numerous practical questions arise.  And a group of TCP volunteers stretched to capacity preparing for the arrival of hundreds of thousands of people starting tomorrow already have a lot of responsibility on their hands.