City to pay $127,000 to homophobic preacher
The city of Syracuse, New York will pay $127,000 to a homophobic preacher, after a court ruled it was unconstitutional to block his anti-gay protests at a Pride event.
Evangelical preacher Jim Deferio is well-known for his protests against LGBT events, holding signs that call on gay people to repent their sexuality, and using an “amplification device to propagate messages regarding sin, judgment, and redemption.”
The preacher launched legal action after he was blocked from protesting at the entrance to the CNY (Central New York) Pride festival in 2015, by police officers enforcing a 40-foot buffer zone for protesters.
Deferio was told to move his protest across the street, but U.S. District Judge Lawrence Kahn ruled that the city’s actions violated his rights to free speech and equal protection under the Constitution.
Syracuse.com reports that the city has now agreed to pay a settlement to the preacher for a six-figure sum.
The outlet states that Deferio will receive $1 in nominal damages as well as $127,247 to cover legal fees and expenses, as ordered by the court.
The city will reportedly be forced to borrow money to pay the expense.
Patheos previously noted that Deferio is alleged to have supported “justified violence” against transgender people on social media.
A Facebook account under his name posted: “If some dude goes into the rest room while your wife or daughter is in there you need to man up and knock the queer right out of them. Show no mercy. Yes, I am advocating violence — justified violence.”
He added: “Same-sex marriage is impossible. It is a fiction, a counterfeit, a delusion, a fraud and a dangerous social and mental disorder.”
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Judge Kahn had cited precedent that the First Amendment “applies to loathsome and unpopular speech with the same force as it does to speech that is celebrated and widely accepted.”
He added: “This annual event, which is free and open to the public, attracts thousands of attendees each year who wish to celebrate the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community and its allies in Central New York.
“Like many similar events across the country, it also attracts attendees who wish to communicate messages to LGBT individuals and their allies that are controversial and may be hurtful. But the right to free speech may not be curtailed simply because the speaker’s message may be offensive to his audience.
“While the dispute in this case may seem parochial—defendants Sergeant Jamey Locastro and Captain Joseph Sweeny forced Plaintiff to move approximately forty feet from the north to the south side of West Kirkpatrick Street—the issues presented here affect the heart of the First Amendment’s purpose.”