CHEYENNE, Wyo. — Having lost round one in its lawsuit against the state, an anti-abortion group will now litigate its claims of discrimination and violation of its free-speech rights.
The attorney for WyWatch Family Values said Wednesday that the group will seek a declaratory judgment that the state violated its rights under the first and 14th amendments by prohibiting it from displaying anti-abortion posters and messages in the Herschler Gallery during the 2011 legislative session after receiving several complaints.
WyWatch seeks "nominal" damages, court costs and reasonable attorney fees, according to attorney Jonathan Scruggs of the Allied Defense Fund, which filed the case on WyWatch's behalf.
Federal Court Judge Nancy Freudenthal on Tuesday denied WyWatch's petition for an injunction to compel the state to allow the group to set up a display in the Herschler Gallery during the legislative session that opens Feb. 13. The gallery is an underground tunnel that connects the state Capitol and the Herschler Building.
Freudenthal ruled that WyWatch failed to establish that it would suffer irreparable harm if the injunction weren't issued.
On Jan. 18, the State Building Commission adopted rules that ban all public displays in the corridor. Space was allotted for displays in the common area in the Herschler Building.
Freudenthal said that under the state's new rules, WyWatch has the same access to the gallery as any other member of the general public.
Nonprofit groups had set up displays in the tunnel during legislative sessions in an effort to influence legislators who use the corridor to walk to and from the underground parking garage.
Freudenthal ruled that WyWatch's concerns weren't moot, however.
"We're excited about proceeding with the rest of the case," Scruggs said Wednesday.
The rest of the lawsuit will focus on the state's 2011 rules governing displays in the tunnel.
The state, Scruggs said, has admitted problems with its 2011 policy.
WyWatch is the only group ever denied access to the corridor, Scruggs said.
Last year after receiving authorization from Rich Cathcart, the State Building Commission's executive secretary, WyWatch set up a booth in the tunnel and two posters, including one of a fetus with a biblical phrase.
After receiving a number of calls complaining about the posters, Cathcart ordered the display removed.
The next step is for the state to answer WyWatch's allegations.
Marty Hardsocg of the Wyoming attorney general's office said Wednesday the state's answer is due Jan. 31 and is not yet in final form.