Tuesday, June 07, 2016

June 7, 2005: Gays Win Bridge of Lions Rainbow Flags First Amendment Case Against City of St. Augustine

Honorable Henry Lee Adams, Jr.
United States District Court Judge in Rainbow Flags Case

ELEVEN years ago today, on June 7, 2005, our U.S. District Court Chief Judge Henry Lee Adams, Jr. ordered Rainbow flags to fly on St. Augustine's historic Bridge of Lions from June 8-13, 2005 in Jensen v. City of St. Augustine, Florida.

Thanks to Plaintiffs, Ruth Jensen, et al, attorney Karen Doehering et al, and to Jason Relph for thinking to ask. Gays had asked for the flags in 2003 and 2004, risking their jobs (some were fired) and our ethically-impaired City Manager and City Commissioners did not even vote on the issue. Then I wrote a GLBT history of St. Augustine (11,000 years worth), including the contributions to our Nation's Oldest City of Fred Francis, Kenneth Worcester Dow, et al. and the first anti-Gay hate crime in North American history (1566, on orders of Pedro Menendez de Aviles, whose brother in law wrote down the murder of the Gay French translator of the Guale Indian language, dating the cacique or chief, because he was "a Sodomite and a Lutheran.") The Gay Pride group attached a one page summary to the City permit application, which was ordered DENIED by City Manager WILLIAM BARRY HARRISS, the racist, sexist, misogynist homophobe who was the mentor to City Manager JOHN PATRICK REGAN, P.E. and other City Hall denizens. The rest is history. Commissioners voted 3-2 to deny the application on May 23, 2005. Commissioners Boles and Burk voted correctly, while three other commissioners were wrong on the First Amendment.

It was a fun day in federal court eleven years ago, on June 7, 2005. The Gay people (and supporters) sat on the right side of the courtroom, and the right side of history. The City's insurance defense lawyer was uptight and obviously uncomfortable with Gays.

Judge Henry Lee Adams, Jr. asked, "What's the Broward Yacht Company?" (A: "It's a yacht company, your Honor") and "What's historic about Flagler College other than that one of their buildings is old. (No coherent response).

After the argument, our side retired to a nearby Subway sandwich shop, where our lawyer received Judge Adams' order by E-mail.

The next morning, the dawn's early light brought the sight of 42 flags on our bridge and seven on our Bayfront. None of those flagpoles survive. HARRISS had seven removed without permission, and the new replacement Bridge still has no flagpoles yet.

On the way back from Jacksonville with my friend David Thundershield Queen, we stopped at the Treaty Oak (below), which was a young tree when our First Amendment, Bill of Rights and Constitution were being written.

David is no longer with us, but our community, in his spirit, is activated now, no longer afraid of corrupters and bullies like the sordid sort that once bossed and bullied Our Town. The Constitution lives in our hearts and in Our Town.

And I got to meet the Marks Gray insurance defense lawyer, Susan Erdelyi, last week at the City of St. Augustine Beach, shook her hand, and quoted the case in support of further First Amendment victories.

Let the healing begin.

As LBJ said to a Joint Session of Congress after Selma, "We SHALL overcome!"

Treaty Oak, Jacksonville, Florida

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