Pro-Life Womens Group Settles Lawsuit And Will Now Have Access To County Community Room For Pro-Life Meeting

Jul 21, 2004

WESTCHESTER, NY – The Westchester County Board of Legislators agreed to provide access to a pro-life group in order to settle a federal lawsuit filed by Regina Riely. The suit was filed after Ms. Riely’s pro-life women’s group had been denied access to a County community room for a Women’s Equality Day [Reformed] Celebration. Ms. Riely is represented by Mathew D. Staver, President and General Counsel of Liberty Counsel.

The Westchester County Board of Legislators allows use of its facilities, including the legislative chambers, by outside groups. In the past, those facilities have been used by the AFL-CIO Central Labor Body, the Westchester Arts Council, the Westchester Irish Committee, Women of Westchester, National Organization of Women, and the Westchester Coalition for Legalized Abortion for various events. The rooms are highly sought after for use by private groups, including group meetings, rallies, public demonstrations, and award celebrations.

Ms. Riely approached the Board in June of 2003, asking for permission to hold a Women’s Equality Day [Reformed] Celebration on August 26, 2003, honoring a pro-life female doctor from the community. Her request was met by delays and denials. Eventually, she was told that she could not use the room, even though groups advocating abortion had previously used the room for similar events. At one point, Ms. Riely was told that if she wanted to use the community room to espouse a “pro-life viewpoint”, then the county needed to elect pro-life legislators at the next election.

After the suit was filed, the court conducted a brief hearing, during which the judge expressed grave concern about Westchester officials denying access for the pro-life meeting. The attorney for Westchester County then conceded that Ms. Riely could use the meeting room for the Woman’s Equality Day Celebration. The parties have now settled all disputes in the case.

The Women’s Equality Day [Reformed] Celebration 2004 is scheduled for Thursday, August 26, 2004, and, as a result of the settlement, the pro-life meeting will take place in the Westchester County Legislative Rotunda, from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

Mat Staver stated, “I am pleased that Westchester County agreed to embrace free speech for all viewpoints, rather than silence speech with which it disagrees. Government cannot be ‘for the people’ nor ‘by the people’ when it bans the people from speaking. When the government opens up its facilities for use by the public, it is constitutionally mandated to treat all people equally without regard to their political or pro-life viewpoints. Equal access is straightforward. Equal means equal. The Constitution is for all of us, not just those espousing one viewpoint.”