Three men who sought permits to burn ceremonial items in public, including the rainbow-colored flag of the gay rights movement, can continue with a lawsuit against the city of Columbus, a federal appeals court ruled.

The plaintiffs include Charles Spingola and Thomas Meyer, who were convicted in Franklin County Environmental Court and fined $100 each for the misdemeanor charge of open burning without a permit. They were arrested in 2001 in violation of their First Amendment right to free speech because city officials are hostile to people who may offend the gay community, the plaintiffs argued.

On Tuesday, a three-member panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati agreed that the plaintiffs had grounds to sue over Columbus’ permit application process, which Spingola and Meyer complained was confusing and burdensome. But the court rejected the plaintiffs’ claim of selective enforcement and denied efforts by Spingola and Meyer to seek damages.

Spingola and Meyer were joined in the lawsuit by David Daubenmire, founder of a Christian group called Pass the Salt Ministries who was denied a city permit to burn the rainbow-colored flag outside a federal courthouse in 2004 along with a copy of the Quran and copies of U.S. Supreme Court decisions “viewed by Christians as undermining Biblical morality,” court documents said. (MORE)


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