An anti-LGBTQ group has threatened to sue writers for defamation. The ACLU defends them.
The ACLU of Illinois is speaking out on behalf of two Illinois residents after an extremist anti-LGBTQ organization threatened to sue them for defamation.
Maggie Romanovich and Kylie Spahn wrote online about their opposition to anti-LGBTQ organization Awake Illinois. In response, the group sent each of them a ‘cease and desist’ letter threatening them with a libel suit if they did not delete their posts and refrain from public criticism of the organization. .
The ACLU then wrote letters to Awake Illinois on behalf of Romanovich and Spahn reminding the organization of their “constitutionally protected speech”.
“Awake Illinois and its leaders frequently accuse opponents of nefarious motives or acts and use hostile epithets—such as “groomers,” “hateful,” “evil,” and “criminal lying bastards”—to characterize those who are not agree with them,” wrote lead counsel Rebecca K. Glenberg. “Yet when others voice their outspoken opinions about Awake Illinois, he responds with requests for silence. The contrast is striking. »
The letter on behalf of Romanovich discussed a letter to the editor she had published in the daily herald that Awake Illinois wanted to disappear.
“The letter to the editor, which urges residents not to vote for [Republican congressional candidate] Keith Pekau, by virtue of his “alarming” association with your organization, is essential political speech on a matter of public interest, enjoying the highest constitutional protection. »
“A copious public record supports all of the factual statements contained in Ms. Romanovich’s letter to the editor, and these statements are therefore not actionable.” Most of the letter simply expresses the author’s opinion of Mr. Pekau and Awake Illinois. Neither the First Amendment nor the common law of Illinois authorizes Awake Illinois to obtain damages or other relief against Ms. Romanovich for expressing her view that Awake Illinois is appalling, extremist, homophobic, insensitive to race and otherwise objectionable.
The letter on behalf of Spahn expressed a similar sentiment.
“Your boilerplate letter to our client includes two attachments, both of which constitute political speech on matters of public interest that enjoy the highest level of First Amendment protection,” the letter said.
The group sent a similar letter to Rep. Sean Casten (D-IL) after he spoke out against them. Casten said he refused to be intimidated.