It’s a question for our times: How do we challenge stupid laws? Joe Redner knows all about stupid laws and he can be quick to action when he sees them. Redner, an infamous political
gadfly, nudie nightclub owner and free speech vigilante recently “came out” in opposition to June’s legislative fiasco barring “Hillsbilly” county officials from acknowledging or participating in gay events.
“I sued them because they incensed me with their inhumanity,” fumed Redner. “Singling out a group of people for no reason whatsoever for disparate treatment and taking them out of the normal realm of County business is wrong. That they cannot be treated with dignity and respect by the County — it incensed me for that to happen to me and my fellow human beings.” So Redner went to the Hillsborough Circuit Court seeking an injunction against the policy for violating constitutional free speech and equal protection rights.
“The first thing you must understand is that when a law is challenged in court they have to give a reason for it,” says Redner. Laws can be passed for no reason, but they must be defended in court if they want to withstand a challenge. Redner is attempting to make a challenge.
He says “You are not free if the government can pass a law with no justification and then defend it in court by saying ‘We have the right to do it.’ It would be like Hitler. How do we challenge stupid laws? We go to court and make them prove the restriction serves the intent. I say it’s unjustifiable!”
Redner points out that in 1996 the Supreme Court settled a very closely related case. Justice Kennedy delivered the opinion of the Court. “One century ago, the first Justice Harlan admonished this Court that the Constitution ‘neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens.’ (Plessy v. Ferguson). Unheeded then, those words now are understood to state a commitment to the law’s neutrality where the rights of persons are at stake. The Equal Protection Clause enforces this principle and today requires us to hold invalid a provision of Colorado’s Constitution.”
Romer v Evans effectively shot down a statewide amendment to the Colorado State Constitution. After various Colorado cities banned discrimination based on sexual orientation, Colorado voted on and passed referendum “Amendment 2” which was supposed to cancel and ban all legislation designed to protect the status of persons based on their “homosexual, lesbian or bisexual orientation, conduct, practices or relationships.”
But it didn’t hold up to Supreme scrutiny. “The State’s principal argument that Amendment 2 puts gays and lesbians in the same position as all other persons by denying them special
rights is rejected as implausible” wrote the Court. Furthermore “The amendment is at once too narrow and too broad, identifying persons by a single trait and then denying them
the possibility of protection across the board. It imposes a broad disability upon those persons alone, forbidding them, but no others, to seek specific legal protection from injuries
caused by discrimination in a wide range of both public and private transactions.”
Justice Kennedy wrote “The Amendment raises the inevitable inference that it is born of animosity toward the class that it affects.” It also raises the question, should “hate legislation” be considered a crime?
Redner remains incensed. “There is no justification, there is no reference. They haven’t given a reason. The law cannot advance the reason or serve the reason if there is no reason!” Redner says the only reason ever given is in the record of the County Commissioner meetings. “The only justification on record is that Ronda Storms didn’t want to have to explain to her children, as she walked by the display, what homosexual meant. I cut that down to meaning she doesn’t want her child to know that there are homosexuals in the world. And that is no justification at all. Here we have a law that cannot be justified.”
So Redner sued the commissioners individually, and was rebuffed at first. County attorneys tried to get Redner’s case dismissed by arguing Redner isn’t personally affected by the ordinance, implying in veiled legalese that Redner isn’t gay. “In fact, there is no allegation that Plaintiff has any concrete or particularized interest at all in gay pride recognition and events,”’ said the county attorneys. So Redner decided it was time to tell the world he is queer as folk.
Whether or not Joe Redner really is light in the loafers may be impossible for the court to officially determine. He says he is currently single, “Free as a breeze,” and experts in First Amendment law suggest it will be difficult to prove anything more than what Redner asserts about his sexuality.
He says so — isn’t that proof enough? What else would you have to do to prove you are gay? “I don’t know if it actually needs an act to be completed,” said First Amendment lawyer Luke
Lirot. “I guess that’s why they call it sexual orientation and not sexual activity.”
Redner says he is ready to take the stand and testify, if that is what will take to get the court to look at this case. He has already attended a party at a local gay nightclub to accept
several awards for coming out.
What’s that you ask: you never got an award for coming out? Joe would laugh at you and say “You never did it for altruistic reasons: to help humanity. Whether I am gay or not, that is what I did it for. It’s not about whether I am a homosexual, because I could have done it for altruistic reasons. When people are persecuted in my fucking name I get upset. This is my country.”