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Pasadena Republican Club sues city, nonprofit, alleging free speech violation; can private renters restrict events in city-owned buildings?

WASHINGTON - DECEMBER 05: A protester holds up a copy of the U.S. Constitution while demonstrating in front of the U.S. Supreme Court December 5, 2007 in Washington, DC. The Supreme Court heard arguments on the rights of Guantanamo detainees today.  (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Win McNamee/Getty Images
A protester holds up a copy of the U.S. Constitution while demonstrating in front of the U.S. Supreme Court December 5, 2007 in Washington, DC.

A nonprofit that leases a city-owned building prohibited the Pasadena Republican Club from holding an event that features a speaker who advocates against gay marriage.

A nonprofit that leases a city-owned building prohibited the Pasadena Republican Club from holding an event that features a speaker who advocates against gay marriage.

The speaker is John Eastman, the director of Claremont Institute’s Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence, which is providing legal services for the Republican Club. The Western Justice Center rents out space to community groups at the historic Maxwell House. When they canceled the event, the Republican Club filed alawsuit against both, the center and the city of Pasadena that owns the building.

The lawsuit argues that blocking the event is a violation of the First Amendment’s protection of free speech. They say the city should not be allowed to pick and choose which organizations can rent space at the Maxwell House, nor should such discrimination be allowed at any city-owned property. But is the city’s ownership of the building relevant? Does a private entity that rents a space from the city free to block events if they don’t reflect their values? We debate.

Guests:

John Eastman, constitutional law professor at Chapman University; senior fellow at the think tank, Claremont Institute

Jody Armour, professor of law at USC; he tweets

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