Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Free Speech and "Hurley"

Nearly 20 years after the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark decision the 'Hurley case' is once again a hot topic in the court of public opinion.  Hurley v. Irish-American Gay, Lesbian & Bisexual Group, 515 U.S. 557 (1995)  involved a dispute between organizers of Boston's historic St. Patrick's Day Parade and an outside group seeking to join in the annual march.
At issue was the right to assemble and determine what message is actually conveyed to the public. Generally, the Court ruled that private organizations, even if they were planning on and had permits for a public demonstration, were permitted to exclude groups if those groups presented a message contrary to the one the organizing group wanted to convey. The Court found that private citizens organizing a public demonstration may not be compelled by the state to include groups who impart a message the organizers do not want to be included in their demonstration, even if such a law had been written with the intent of preventing discrimination.  The right to speak, the Court reasoned, includes the right to determine "what not to say."  In this vein, the unanimous Court said that the Council could not statutorily be prohibited from excluding the messages of groups it did not agree with. Effectively, the Council could not be forced to endorse a message against its will.
For more on the United States Constitution visit our webpage on Federal Primary Law.