For the third time, an anti-homosexuality evangelist has sued for what he describes as police interference with his free-speech rights at gay-pride events.
Michael Marcavage, the director of Philadelphia-based Repent America, said he was physically restrained by city police on four separate occasions, and once, he said, an officer put him into a chokehold.
His civil-rights suit, which names the city and several individual police officers, was filed yesterday in federal court in Philadelphia.
It describes four confrontations with police, all occurring at gay-pride events, including 2007 and 2008 events at Penn's Landing, a 2008 City Hall protest against the passing of a gay-marriage ban in California, and a 2009 Center City parade.
The suit says Marcavage "believes homosexual behavior is inherently sinful and harmful to those partaking in such a lifestyle."
"This country's at a crossroads," Marcavage said in an interview yesterday. "We understand that not everyone is going to receive our message . . . but that's what the First Amendment is all about - protecting unpopular speech."
Craig Straw, the chief deputy for civil rights in the City Solicitor's Office, said he had not received the suit and he could not comment on pending litigation.
Marcavage and his group have been down this road before.
Marcavage and 10 followers sued after they were arrested for protesting Philadelphia's 2004 OutFest. A federal appeals court said then that police had "ample justification" to move them because they were being disruptive.
Marcavage sued a second time, citing seven other altercations with police, but lost at trial. An appeals court ordered a new trial, and the case eventually was settled out of court.
Marcavage also is appealing a 2008 fine and federal probationary sentence for protesting in a restricted area outside the Liberty Bell Center, on U.S. Park Service property.
Repent America also was a plaintiff in a suit that helped strike down state hate-crime protection for gays, women, and disabled people.