Judge tells library to put gay exhibit back up

Display likely to return to city library within a week

Posted: Thursday, July 05, 2001

ANCHORAGE - A federal judge has ordered Anchorage officials to reinstall a gay pride exhibit at the city's main library.

U.S. District Judge James K. Singleton, in a preliminary injunction, ruled Tuesday that the city has the right to limit certain forms of speech at the library. But he said guidelines were not explicit enough to prevent administrators' prejudices from potentially playing a role in a decision.

"We just don't have a consistent and unambiguous policy that meets the test," Singleton said.

Singleton said the Alaska Civil Liberties Union, which challenged removal of the exhibit, was likely to prevail at trial on the constitutional issues raised.

Mayor George Wuerch ordered the display removed early last month and the civil liberties union sued, saying the city violated constitutional free speech protections.

Anchorage's cultural services director, Jim Posey, said he didn't know when the exhibit will go back up at the Loussac Library, but that it probably would be within a week.

"You don't ignore a federal judge," Posey said.

Singleton agreed to the AkCLU's request to reinstall most of the exhibit for 30 days, the length of time it originally would have been up. A portion of the exhibit that featured T-shirts and clothing hangers posted over library elevators should not go up, the judge said.

Wuerch said he was pleased that the judge didn't require the part of the exhibit over the elevators to be re-instated. Singleton "recognized that involuntary participation in an exhibit is not appropriate for a library," Wuerch said. He refused to answer questions at a Tuesday press conference.

Allison Mendel, an attorney working with the AkCLU, said the judge's decision means the group's suit is likely to succeed.

"I feel great about the decision," she said. "I think he understands the law and is looking at the right cases."

The exhibit was sponsored by the Metropolitan Community Church and the group Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays. A trial on the matter is expected later this month.

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