Lawsuit allows pro-life group to gain access

By WND Staff

A New York county settled a federal lawsuit by complying with a pro-life group that was denied access to a community room.

The Westchester County Board of Legislators allows use of its facility to outside groups, but when Regina Riely asked for permission to hold a “Women’s Equality Day [Reformed] Celebration” on Aug. 26, 2003, honoring a local pro-life female doctor, her request was met by delays and denials.

Riely eventually was told she could not use the room, even though groups advocating abortion previously held similar events there.

Groups given access to the room included the National Organization of Women, Westchester Coalition for Legalized Abortion, AFL-CIO Central Labor Body, Westchester Arts Council, Westchester Irish Committee and Women of Westchester.

At one point, Riely was told that if she wanted to use the community room to espouse a “pro-life viewpoint,” the county needed to elect pro-life legislators at the next election.

After the suit was filed, the court conducted a brief hearing in which the judge expressed grave concern about Westchester officials denying access for the pro-life meeting.

The attorney for Westchester County then conceded Riely could use the meeting room for her event. The parties now have settled all disputes in the case.

The celebration is scheduled for Aug. 26 in the Westchester County Legislative Rotunda.

Mathew D. Staver, president and general counsel of Florida-based Liberty Counsel, which represented Riely, said he was pleased the county “agreed to embrace free speech for all viewpoints, rather than silence speech with which it disagrees.”

“When the government opens up its facilities for use by the public, it is constitutionally mandated to treat all people equally without regard to their political or pro-life viewpoints,” Staver said.

“Equal access is straightforward,” he continued. “Equal means equal. The Constitution is for all of us, not just those espousing one viewpoint.”