On Wednesday, LSGR filed a lawsuit in federal court against Texas House Speaker, Dennis Bonnen. The suit was filed in the United States District Court in Austin, and was a direct result of the Speaker banning people from interacting on his Facebook page, which several court cases have ruled to be a violation of the 1st and 14th Amendments of the United States Constitution.
There are three plaintiffs named in the case; Lone Star Gun Rights (as an organization), LSGR co-founder Justin Delosh (as an individual), and Jason Davis (a constituent of the Speaker). The three plaintiffs are represented by Austin-based civil rights attorney, Millie Thompson.
The legal precedent has been set by multiple cases that elected officials operating a public social media page for the purposes of providing official statements, legislative updates, etc. cannot ban or silence users, as it constitutes a public forum. Probably the most famous case is the infamous Trump Twitter case in which a number of plaintiffs represented by the Knight Institute sued the President for blocking them from his personal Twitter handle, @realDonaldTrump. The court ruled that because the President used the account in his official capacity to provide official updates, blocking individuals was a violation of the plaintiff's rights of free speech and to redress grievances.
In another similar case out of Hunt County, TX, Deanna Robinson was blocked by the Hunt County Sheriffs Office official Facebook page after leaving comments critical of them. Despite the fact that the HCSO said that their page was not a public forum on the "About" portion of their page, the Fifth Circuit ruled differently. Despite the fact that the HCSO made a post stating that "ANY post filled with foul language, hate speech of all types and comments that are considered inappropriate will be removed and the user banned," the opinion of the court said the following:
The complaint alleges that the defendants deleted Robinson's Facebook comment and banned her from the HCSO Facebook page on the basis of her viewpoint. Robinson contends that the defendants' actions constitute viewpoint discrimination regardless of whether they were motivated by the Sheriff's Office or a determination that her comment was otherwise "inappropriate." We agree. "It is firmly settled that under our Constitution the public expression of ideas may not be prohibited merely because the ideas are themselves offensive to some of their hearers." Street v. New York, 394 U.S. 576, 592 (1969); see also Snyder v. Phelps, 562 U.S. 443, 54-56 (2011).
LSGR is not seeking any punitive damages from the Speaker. The case seeks a declaration from the court that affirms that Speaker Bonnen's blocking of anyone on his public Facebook page violates the 1st and 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, an injunction from the court to remove the ban on anyone currently banned from Speaker Bonnen's page, and legal fees.
If you have been banned by Speaker Bonnen, we would like to add you to our list to our petition to the court. You will not be listed as a plaintiff, but could be called to testify. If you would like to be included, send an email to Derek@LoneStarGR.com or contact us through Facebook. Click here for Speaker Bonnen's Facebook page. If you are unable to Like or Comment on any post, then you have been banned.
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