Judge rules that MN Pride Fest can't block anti-gay evangelist

Fri. June 25, 2010 2:15 PM by GoPride.com News Staff

Minneapolis, Minn. - A federal judge has ruled that an anti-gay Wisconsin evangelist will be allowed to hand out bibles and anti-gay literature during Minneapolis' huge LGBT Pride Fest this weekend.

Brian Johnson had been a fixture at Twin Cities Pride Fest for years, until last summer, when he was denied a permit for a booth. He showed up anyway and was arrested.

This year, Pride Fest attorneys attempted to get an emergency restraining order against him.

Since the Fest is held in a public park, attorneys for the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board argued on Johnson's behalf, although they insisted they were merely trying to clarify the rules and were not advocating one viewpoint over another.

A federal judge ruled Friday that a restraining order would violate Johnson's First Amendment rights.

"The court's task here is to balance these competing interests to the greatest extent possible- -- to enable all speakers to exercise their constitutional rights," Judge John Tunheim said in his ruling. "And then to depend on reasonable and law-abiding people to stay within proper limits."

"There are no winners or losers in this case," said MPRB President John Erwin. "This case was about clarifying an individual's first amendment rights in a public park. Mr. Brian Johnson, or anyone, has the right to express themselves in Loring Park during Twin Cities Pride Festival. But no one has the right to disturb the peace or harass attendees."

The MPRB said that if anyone, including Johnson, breaks the law, they will have to deal with Minneapolis Park Police.

The Twin Cities Pride Fest is the third largest such event in the country, attracting 200,000 people.