SUNRISE, Florida, September 4, 2008 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The 2007 federal court lawsuit filed against City of Sunrise police officer Sergeant Stephen Allen and Broward County for improperly prohibiting marriage amendment petitions from being distributed at a 2006 Promise Keepers conference has been settled for $30,000.
The civil rights case was brought in the Southern District of Florida by Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) allied Attorney Frederick “Rick” Nelson of the American Liberties Institute on behalf of the Florida Family Policy Council for violation of First Amendment rights under the United States Constitution.
On Saturday June 3, 2006, thousands of men gathered for the Promise Keepers conference at the Bank Atlantic Center in Fort Lauderdale. The Florida Family Policy Council, along with dozens of other organizations, paid $800 to host exhibits under a large tent in the civic center parking lot.
At the Policy Council’s table, volunteers were collecting petitions to get the Florida Marriage Amendment on the ballot. The Amendment would define marriage as the union of one man and one woman.
According to recorded statements from eye witnesses, Sgt. Allen, the duty officer hired by the Broward-owned civic center, informed the Policy Council’s volunteers that the marriage amendment petitions could not be collected or be in “public view” and must be immediately removed.
The volunteers said they were mocked, harassed and threatened with being arrested for collecting the petitions, and then Allen personally confiscated the petitions. Sgt. Allen and Officer M. Allard, both male officers, further ridiculed the effort by appearing to kiss each other.
According to John Stemberger, president of the Florida Family Policy Council, it was quickly apparent that Allen was a supporter of homosexual marriage and that he personally disagreed with the purpose of the petition.
Stemberger said, “I respectfully asked Sgt. Allen what law or ordinance was being violated by the display and collection of petitions. In response, Allen ignored my requests and unbelievably started lecturing us on his opinion that ‘Jesus never addressed homosexuality,’ and that the petition effort was a ‘waste of time.’”
Stemberger says he was so “distressed” by the abuse of power and the trampling of rights, that he called his attorney who confirmed Allen was “abusing his power given the circumstances.” Stemberger decided he was willing to be arrested – if necessary – in order to make a point and stand up for his First Amendment rights.
Stemberger said, “I put the petitions back on the table and stood in between the petitions and Sgt. Allen. I told him that he had no legal authority for his order and that he would have to arrest me because he was in direct violation of the United States Constitution.”
The incident ended after a civic center official told Sgt Allen to stand down and he walked away. A small crowd of about 50 people that had gathered to watch the 45-minute incident applauded.
Earlier news reports indicated that Sgt. Allen had a past record of complaints by other citizens. The lawsuit was initiated after the internal affairs investigation by the Sunrise Police department found the complaints against Allen “sustained,” and they withheld a week of his salary.
Stemberger said, “We felt strongly that we had to file the suit to send a clear message to Sgt. Allen and all other gay rights advocates who are intolerant of those who have a different view than them that such intimidation will not be tolerated in free society.”
On Feb. 1, 2008, The Florida Marriage Protection Amendment certified enough signatures to appear on the ballot as Amendment 2 on Nov, 4, 2008. A yes vote on Amendment 2 defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman.