Gay group hits city policy on displays

Friday, November 30th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ A gay pride group filed a federal lawsuit Friday alleging its free speech rights were violated by a policy that keeps its banners off city flag poles.

The Cimarron Alliance Foundation also says the city policy is discriminatory and violates its equal protection rights.

Under the policy, organizations are prohibited from using city light poles or benches to promote social, religious or political issues.

The city rejected the foundation's application to display banners during Gay and Lesbian History Month in October. The policy was approved in August after people complained about the group's banners, which were flown from city flag poles earlier in the summer.

Michael Salem, an attorney working on behalf of the foundation, said the city's actions in adopting the policy and denying banner display permits amount to ``revoking the citizenship'' of Cimarron Alliance members.

The lawsuit seeks to recover court costs, ``reasonable'' attorney fees and ``at least nominal damages'' against the city. Representatives of the city attorney's office said they had not seen the lawsuit and would have no comment.

The lawsuit argues the new policy's ``vagueness permits discretion which allows viewpoint discrimination and sweeps into what otherwise would be protected constitutional activity.''

The lawsuit also said Cimarron is being denied the opportunity to promote recurring gay and lesbian events, including an annual parade.

The banners the group planned to display in October, according to the lawsuit, would have showed its logo and the names of gay, lesbian and bisexual individuals who have made significant contributions to music, art, literature and culture.

It said Gay and Lesbian History Month has been recognized by various governmental and private organizations and was chosen to commemorate anniversaries of gay and lesbian marches in Washington, D.C., in 1979 and 1987.

The American Civil Liberties Union is supporting Cimarron in the legal action.