Judge Dismisses SCV’s Lexington Flag Lawsuit
By Scott C. Boyd
(August 2012 Civil War News)
LEXINGTON, Va. – The Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV) lost its legal battle to fly Confederate flags from city-owned standards on lampposts in Lexington when a federal judge dismissed its lawsuit against the city.
Judge Samuel G. Wilson of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia, Roanoke Division, granted the city’s motion to dismiss on June 14.
The SCV filed an appeal on July 3.
The SCV filed its initial suit in federal court on Jan. 12 against the City of Lexington, all seven of its elected officials and one appointed official, over the city’s flag ordinance (see Feb.-March CWN).
The ordinance bans the display of flags other than the city, state and U.S. flags from standards on city lampposts downtown. It has the effect of preventing the display of Confederate flags on those same lampposts. The SCV alleged that was the real purpose of the ordinance, although the term “Confederate” does not appear in its wording.
The impetus for the ordinance was a petition presented to the city council on March 17, 2011, signed by several hundred people opposing the display of Confederate flags by the SCV to celebrate Lee-Jackson Day, a state holiday in Virginia occurring in January.
The former tradition of hanging Confederate flags from city lampposts downtown on Lee-Jackson Day abruptly ended in 2012 because of the ordinance.
Judge Wilson wrote, “The ordinance is content neutral because it makes no distinction as to viewpoint or subject matter and advances no particular position. Rather, on its face, the ordinance prohibits the expression of all private viewpoints and instead reserves government flag poles for government flags.”
He continued, “No private entity may attach its flag to the City’s flag poles. There is simply no question that the ordinance does not regulate expression on the basis of content.”
He wrote, “Absent some discriminatory effect, allegations regarding the City’s motivation in enacting the ordinance do not alter the court’s analysis.”
“The judge’s ruling, as we interpret it, would allow any government facility to be closed off to private use if the government disliked certain individuals or their views, so long as the government then prevented everyone else from using that forum,” Brandon Dorsey stated in an SCV press release following the case’s dismissal. Dorsey is local SCV Stonewall Brigade Camp 1296 Commander.
“If this line of reason was accepted and applied to other issues and areas of law, then it will be perfectly legal and legitimate for the government to block access to or close public schools, parks, pools, libraries, public meeting rooms, etc. to deny access to those facilities by a certain group, so long as everyone is barred by the closure,” according to Dorsey.
“That logic would legitimize many of the wrongs committed by state and local governments during the Civil Rights era,” Dorsey wrote.
No hearing date for the appeal was set by presstime.