Charges dropped against Kentucky gay rights activists

Chris Hartman, director of the Fairness Campaign in Louisville, was arrested in August while demonstrating at the Kentucky Farm Bureau’s 2015 Country Ham Breakfast. He is pictured at a rally in 2013 in Louisville.

Chris Hartman, director of the Fairness Campaign in Louisville, was arrested in August while demonstrating at the Kentucky Farm Bureau’s 2015 Country Ham Breakfast. He is pictured at a rally in 2013 in Louisville. AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley

Chris Hartman, director of the Louisville Fairness Campaign, spoke during a rally in support of the U.S. Supreme Court decision on the Defense of Marriage Act June 26, 2013, at Jefferson Suare in Louisville, Ky., Wednesday, June 26, 2013, in Louisville, Ky.AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley

Chris Hartman, director of the Louisville Fairness Campaign, spoke during a rally in support of the U.S. Supreme Court decision on the Defense of Marriage Act June 26, 2013, at Jefferson Suare in Louisville, Ky., Wednesday, June 26, 2013, in Louisville, Ky.


LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Prosecutors dismissed charges Thursday against three gay rights activists arrested this summer for standing silently in matching orange T-shirts in protest of an event at the Kentucky State Fair.

Chris Hartman, director of the Fairness Campaign in Louisville, was arrested in August while demonstrating at the Kentucky Farm Bureau’s annual Country Ham Breakfast, which draws many of the state’s political heavyweights. The Fairness Campaign and the American Civil Liberties Union have protested the event for years in opposition to the insurance company’s political arm, which opposes same-sex marriage and lobbies for other conservative causes.

Hartman said he felt vindicated that the criminal charges again him were dismissed. A dozen supporters with him chanted in the courthouse hallway, “Justice is served.” The activists’ attorneys say they plan to file a lawsuit saying the arrest was unconstitutional.

Around two dozen activists bought tickets to the breakfast for $28 each, Hartman said. They sat at tables in the back of the event. As the program began, they stood in matching T-shirts that read “no hate in our state,” Hartman said. They planned it to make a statement without risking arrest, he said.

Kentucky State Police Trooper Paul Blanton said at the time they were arrested for refusing to sit down once the event started.

Troopers charged Hartman with disorderly conduct and failure to disperse. Two other activists, Carla Wallace and Sonja De Vries, were also arrested and charged with failure to disperse. Police wrote in their report that the activists “attended a private event” and “stood in protest and did not obey instructions to disperse.”

All three spent around four hours in jail.

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