In May 2022, the ACLU of Massachusetts, together with the law firm Zalkind Duncan & Bernstein LLP, filed a lawsuit on behalf of two LGBTQ rights protesters, challenging state regulations that unconstitutionally restrict the rights to free speech and expression on public lands.
In November 2021, the two Plaintiffs, Michael Picard and Heidi Olson, held a peaceful counter-protest in response to past suggestions by another demonstrator that, by flying Pride flags and otherwise supporting LGBTQ+ rights, the government of Swampscott was “trying to make everyone gay.”
The counter-protest—which took place on public property managed by the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR)—consisted primarily of soliciting signatures for petitions in support of LGBTQ rights, advocating for a Pride flag to be hung along the seawall in Lynn, and holding a sign satirically saying, “Let’s Make Everybody Gay.” At times, they used bullhorns to ensure their voices could be heard. In response, a Massachusetts State Police (MSP) trooper ordered Picard and Olson to stop using bullhorns, forced them to leave DCR property, and then issued citations with $200 fines against them.
The citations were based on DCR regulations defining “disorderly conduct” to include making “unnecessary noise offensive to the general public.” The complaint alleges this regulation is invalid both because it violates free speech and is unconstitutionally vague.
The complaint also alleges that DCR failed to provide an administrative hearing as required by its own regulations and that MSP failed to comply with the Massachusetts Public Records Law.