Stonewall Union, a non-profit advocating for the civil rights and liberties of gay and lesbian people, had sponsored an annual parade in Columbus since 1982. In March of 1985, Craig Covey, the executive director of Stonewall Union, applied for a city permit to hold the parade. Pursuant to the Columbus Municipal Code, Stonewall Union was required to pay an $85 parade permit fee and later an additional $672.50 to cover the costs of police assigned to traffic control and to the parade route during the parade.

Stonewall Union paid the fees and held the parade, but subsequently filed suit against the City on May 16, 1985. They asserted that the city ordinance requiring payment for police services violated First Amendment rights of free speech. Lawyer David Goldberger from the Ohio ACLU represented Stonewall Union. Lita Miller and Lynn Nolan also provided legal counsel on behalf of the Ohio ACLU.

The federal district court denied Stonewall Union’s injunction to stop enforcement of the parade fee provisions, which was affirmed by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals on May 24, 1986. The ACLU then appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which denied our application for a stay on June 17, 1986.

On June 28th, 1990, the District Court upheld the city ordinance as constitutional. However, the court did find that the ordinance might not have been uniformly applied to all groups holding parades. Stonewall then appealed, still arguing the unconstitutionality of the ordinance.

On May 6th, 1991 the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the District Court’s ruling that the ordinance itself was constitutional, and remanded the case to the District Court for a hearing to address the allegations of discriminatory application of the ordinance.

The ACLU of Ohio petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to review the case, which the Court denied on October 7, 1991.

On July 6 1992, Magistrate Judge Terence P. Kemp of the U.S. District Court, Southern District of Ohio, ordered the case dismissed without prejudice, as a settlement had been reached.

Read the May 1991 Sixth Circuit decision.

Read an article from the Autumn 1985 edition of Ohio Civil Liberties, published by the ACLU of Ohio

Read the 1991 press release regarding Stonewall Union’s petition to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Date filed

May 16, 1985