Georgia v. Torres and Norton
Decision Date: February 27, 2017
Georgia Superior Court Judge William McClain convicted members of the white-supremacist group "Respect the Flag", of making terrorist threats and violating Georgia’s Street Gang Terrorism and Prevention Act. They were sentenced to a combined 19 years in prison and would not be allowed to enter Douglas County, where the crime occurred, following their release. Jose Torres and Kayla Norton were taking part in a two-day rampage carried out by "Respect the Flag" when they showed up at an outdoor birthday party for an African-American child where they hurled racial slurs, made armed threats, and waved Confederate battle flags. Judge McClain said that the Defendants' acts were racially-motivated and reasoned that he had to consider the motivation of the incident even though First Amendment protections for free speech weren't engaged because Georgia is one of a handful of states that doesn't have a hate crime law. The Judge was also mindful that the incident occurred just a month after another racially-motivated assault when Dylann Roof shot down nine African-American worshipers in a Charleston, S.C. church.
Hurley v. Irish-American Gay Group of Boston
Decision Date: June 19, 1995
The U.S. Supreme Court reinforced the First Amendment protections of private speakers finding that private parade organizers could not be forced by state law to include participant organizations representing minorities or specialized messages. The South Boston Allied War Veterans Council, refused to allow GLIB, a gay rights organization, to march in the annual St. Patrick's Day and Evacuation Day Parade. GILB sued the Council for violation of the U.S. Constitution, the Massachusetts' state constitution and a state public accommodations law. The Court found that Massachusetts public accommodations law which prohibited discrimination against individuals based on their sexual orientation in any public places was constitutional but held that its application in the present case was not. The Court accepted the Council's argument that individuals who identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual were not prevented from marching in the parade overall and noted that no individual member of GILB claimed to be excluded from marching with another group. Accordingly, the Supreme Court held that the application of the public accommodations law in the present case was incorrect and violated the Council's First Amendment right to control every participating unit of a parade so as to give effect to the overall message the private parade organizers wished to convey. The Court said that "[a] speaker has the autonomy to choose the content of his own message."